Today I’m going to talk about how to deal with the jealousy you feel in your relationships with your husband, wife, parents, children or friends. Why are people jealous of their husband seeing his female friends? The attention paid by their wife to an unknown man? Their parents’ affection towards other children? Where does jealousy come from?
Reasons for jealousy:
- Firstly, jealousy stems from fear – the fear of losing something you love.
- Secondly, it comes from self-doubt, lack of confidence in your relationship with your partner (or friend or child or whoever), uncertainty that your partner loves you and wouldn’t rather be with somebody better.
- Thirdly, jealousy arises from possessive feelings towards your partner, the desire to monopolise their personal life and interfere in all their affairs.
- Fourthly, the trait can grow from any other complexes or fears.
What don’t we see on this list of reasons for jealousy? Love! Jealousy doesn’t come from love; its basis is fear. Constant bursts of jealousy only interfere with love and turn relationships into cavalcades of suffering and distrust.
So how do you overcome jealousy? How can you get rid of the reasons behind this feeling?
1. Get rid of anything that doesn’t serve your love
During bouts of jealousy many people engage in cloak-and-dagger games. They may constantly check the call list on their spouse’s phone, try to catch the smell of perfume on their jacket, phone them every hour to make sure they’re with their friends and not paying a visit to their lover, forbid them from talking to members of the opposite sex, etc. Basically, they keep their partner on a short leash. At the same time, they give no thought to where this feeling will ultimately lead them.
Subconsciously these people may believe that their behaviour will solve problems which are getting in the way of having a healthy relationship. Spouses should love each other and not be unfaithful, they think. Therefore they feel they must do everything in their power to ensure their partner’s fidelity, even if it leads to mistrust, negative emotions and quarrels over nothing. This is how jealousy gets its green light.
People have got used to seeing love and jealousy as going hand in hand, and many have become reconciled to the fact that jealousy is a fully-fledged participant in their relationships.
But in fact, the paranoia which arises from jealousy is completely antithetical to a harmonious life together and merely poisons love. Jealousy and the activities it gives rise to don’t solve problems but create them.
Where will your endless jealousy get you? You’re afraid of lies, but you shroud your relationships in an atmosphere of mistrust. You’re terrified of losing your partner, but at the same time you try to control their every step, accuse them, forbid them, swear, shout, suspect…
Does this really lay the groundwork for close, trusting, long and healthy relationships? The irony of jealousy (as well as many other feelings which are based on fear) is that jealousy only brings closer that which you’re afraid of! Distrust and paranoia ultimately make relationships more fragile and alienate you from your partner.
When you next have an episode of jealousy and feel the urge to shout at your spouse or check their phone, ask yourself how doing these things will help your relationship. How will it support your love? How will it prevent the things (losing your partner, the end of the relationship) you’re so afraid of from happening?
If your answer to this question is ‘It won’t’ or ‘It’ll only get in the way’, then put up a stop sign in front of your jealousy.
Of course, this alone won’t enable you to completely get rid of your jealousy, but the first step on the way to getting rid of negative emotions is to recognise that you don’t need them – that they only get in your way.
Free your relationships from anything which doesn’t serve the interests of love!
2. Get rid of your fears
It’s natural for us not to want to think about what we fear, for example, ‘What if I lose my job? I can’t bear to even think about it!’ It sounds strange, but our fears have power over us precisely because we don’t want to think about what’ll happen if they’re realised.
Of course, you might not agree with me and protest, ‘That’s not the case! I’m constantly thinking about my fears. I imagine how bad it would be if my love left me and all the awful things I’d feel’.
But you don’t think about what would happen afterwards. You contemplate only the negative emotions which would happen the moment your fears were realised. Try mentally crossing that boundary, even if you don’t want to think about the future.
Think, ‘How would things be a year after our separation? Five years after? The first few months would undoubtedly be hard for me, but then little by little I’d start to come back to myself. Eventually I’d meet someone else; maybe our relationship would be even better than this one.’
(This isn’t to say that separation is the best of possible outcomes! Maybe your relationship would survive infidelity – I’m going to talk about that in the last part of the article.)
It’s not as dreadful as you thought at the start, is it? Don’t catastrophise! Try to envisage how you’d get out of the situation and what your life would be like further down the line, not about how bad it would be for you the moment your fear became reality!
I believe that if you analyse your other fears like this, you’ll realise that they too are empty. Behind nearly every one of your fears lurks nothing. The border which abuts human fear – it’s nothing; and there’s no need to fear this ‘nothing’. (I’m going to talk about this in more detail in future articles.)
You shouldn’t become too attached to what you have. At the moment, you may feel that your relationship with this person is the most important thing in your life. But this is at least in part illusion and deception. People find it hard to think from the perspective of their whole lives and often very much overestimate the role they have at the moment.
This idea may not be completely intuitive. You ask me, ‘Why not become attached to something? I’m tied to things I love: my children, my family, my work, my goals. These are the foundations of my being! Are you suggesting becoming indifferent to the things I love?’
No, I’m just suggesting putting an end to unhealthy attachments which only give rise to suffering and fear.
If you dearly love your spouse but constantly live in fear that your relationship may end, are you really happy? Are you satisfied with this kind of relationship? I doubt it. The fear of losing this relationship in the future makes you unhappy. But what you have in the present doesn’t make you happy either because you’re always afraid and thinking about the future!
Strong attachments cause fear of loss. And this fear hinders you from enjoying the present moment.
Not having a strong attachment isn’t the same as not loving. It simply means having a more peaceful attitude towards the fact that nothing lasts forever and being realistic; being ready for anything and also being able to enjoy what you have now.
3. Stop comparing
‘He’s going to find a better wife than me now, someone cleverer and more beautiful!’
‘There are so many guys around her, and they’re all better looking and more successful than me. There’s no chance our relationship will last.’
These anxious thoughts are familiar to many. You start comparing yourself to other members of your sex and get swept up in the fear of competition. But husbands and wives aren’t commodities which you find at the love market!
Human relationships aren’t the same as commodity-money relations in which preferences are formulated solely on the basis of the attributes of the ‘goods’: attractiveness, success, intelligence, etc. This is actually more similar to the attitude of a capital owner to his capital; again that isn’t the best analogy, but it’s closer.
What I’m getting at is that your relationship now isn’t the same as it was before when it had just started. Perhaps when you’d just met your partner you were connected only by mutual attraction.
But as the relationship develops, a kind of ‘capital’ is formed, something more than simple attraction and lust enhanced by outward attractiveness and success.
This capital accumulates over the years as both parties in the relationship come to understand each other more and more deeply, find solutions to their problems together, draw conclusions from their mistakes and overcome the difficulties that arise on their path…
This capital becomes extremely valuable, impossible to simply exchange for something else, because your partner doesn’t love you for your qualities alone, but for all that you have with them. Maybe they love you for something else which you yourself don’t quite get. And it’s this that means they prefer you to someone who may be ostensibly more attractive and successful.
‘That’s all well and good,’ you say. ‘But what if our relationship isn’t “building up joint moral capital”? It’s just crumbling. It seems that nothing’s binding us anymore.’
In that case, read on.
4. Improve your relationship
Spend more time with your partner. Get to know their wants. Show them care and trust. Use your mutual strengths to solve family problems. Talk about your difficulties. Make yourselves more attractive to each other. Introduce variety. Develop your relationship, and don’t stop there!
I’m not going to get into detailed instructions about how to improve your relationship; this will be the subject of another article. What I want to say here is that the trust between spouses doesn’t derive from surveillance, suspicion and mistrust. It’s the result of a strong, secure and fulfilling relationship.
Even if shadowing your spouse doesn’t show up any evidence of infidelity, your jealousy won’t be eliminated; it’ll come back sooner or later. But when you become more confident in your relationship, when you and your partner immerse yourselves in trust, only then will you have less reason to be jealous.
In order to get rid of the feeling of jealousy itself and also the reasons for it arising (betrayal), you have to aspire to develop your relationship and not turn it into some spy novel or soap opera!
Recently I was thinking about why as a general rule there’s total state control in less developed countries. I believe it’s because countries with serious economic problems have only one way of nurturing patriotism and keeping their citizens from leaving. This method includes lying, organising surveillance, establishing prohibitions and putting restrictions on leaving the country. The love and loyalty these countries’ citizens show towards the sate is based on fear and deception.
But a state with good economic and social conditions doesn’t need to resort to dictatorship. People won’t leave these countries even if given the chance. This is because they love their state, since it provides them with good living conditions and cares about them. It doesn’t force anyone to ‘love’ so the feeling arises genuinely.
You can easily apply this analogy to your relationships. It’s essential to establish an atmosphere of love and trust within your family, to amass joint ‘love capital’ and thereby lower the risk of ‘spouse emigration’ to another family. It’s a much better way than attaining this through restrictions and surveillance.
5. Rein in your imagination
Your husband is being kept late at work and you’re already envisaging a scenario where he’s having a good time with other women. But don’t your imagination run away with you. If you keep picturing it, you’ll find it hard to extricate yourself from these thoughts or listen to any reasonable arguments which come to you.
These fantasies deprive you of the chance to soberly evaluate the situation. So, if you notice yourself feeling paranoid about your partner cheating on you, then come up with a rule: ‘my first thought isn’t true until proved otherwise.’
This principle is the presumption of guilt of impulsive thoughts (Your first thought is ‘guilty’ (wrong) until proven innocent (right)). It helps me very much to cope with many emotions and to see the situation as it is and not as my transitory feelings are trying to make it look.
So discard all these fantasies from your head for a while. You can pay them attention later. The first thing is to calm your mind. When you’re beset with worry and anxiety, nothing worthwhile will come into your head.
Turn your attention to something else. Don’t allow it to become ‘tied up’ in these fantasies. Start to think about the problem only when you know that you’re calmer and your anxiety isn’t dragging all of your thoughts to their ‘negative pole’. Then you can start to appraise the situation sensibly. Maybe you’ll realise that your misgivings have been groundless; or they may be proven true. But before you think about this, you must calmly analyse the situation as it is in reality and not get carried away by your imaginings.
6. Stop only living the life of your partner
A common reason for jealousy is one partner’s fixation on the other’s life. Sometimes this happens because one person in the relationship lacks their own interests or personal life, so all they can do is live the life of the other.
This doesn’t only apply to jealousy, but also excessive control by parents over their children. Remember that your control, your anxiety, your endless intervention in someone’s life won’t make you or them any happier!
In order to avoid this, it’s important to establish variety in your life. Find your interests and passions. Not that new interests should ever become a reason to ignore your partner or child.
Absolutely not! They should simply allow you to realise that there are things in life beyond them.
At the same time, let your partner (or son or daughter) live their own life in addition to a family one. Leave them space to see their friends, colleagues and even members of the opposite sex! Show your partner that you trust them, give them freedom, don’t try to study every inch of their life or squeeze it in a vice of control.
This will also help you to become less attached to your relationship since you’ll have something else to focus on! Consequently, you’ll be less afraid of loss and suffer less too!
7. Do the opposite
Do the opposite of what tends to make you jealous. If you see your wife talking to a guy you don’t know, instead of glaring at him then making a scene with your wife, go up and politely introduce yourself! You may discover he’s simply a colleague your wife stopped to speak to so as not to seem rude. You’ll realise that your jealousy was completely absurd.
8. Be open! Don’t play games
Quit these spy games and cast away your hidden doubts! If something’s worrying you, talk to your partner about it directly! And don’t make a scene when you do this! Calmly tell them your suspicions and see what they say.
But before you talk to your partner about it, it wouldn’t hurt to think about whether your suspicions are justified. Many people conduct ‘hidden games’ and act stealthily because they subconsciously know that all of their doubts are absurd and even comical, and it would be ludicrous to tell anyone about their paranoia
Being ready to have such conversations and talking directly about your fears will not only allow you to enter a new level of trust (if you know that the conversation should happen), but also to check whether your fears are real or simply the product of your wild imagination.
9. Trust your partner
I’ve already spoken about trust a few times in this article, but I believe the issue important enough to warrant its own section. Trust is an indispensable condition of healthy, strong relationships, so think about whether you really have any reason not to trust your partner.
I’m not saying that there never is a reason, but often we start to suspect out partner not because they’ve betrayed our trust, but simply because we’re afraid and don’t trust ourselves. Jealousy in this case isn’t based on reality but results from our own personal feelings.
Why then not try to trust our partner? To stop seeing deception in their every word and discard our endless suspicions? Of course, suspicions aren’t always groundless. But make an attempt to trust your other half and not suspect them of something bad for at least a month, however they act and whatever they do.
If your fears stay with you, then you probably should change something in your relationship. But it’s entirely possible that you’ll start to understand how ridiculous your fears are and see how belief in your partner transforms your relationship and makes you happier. And you’ll want to stay with this trust forever.
10. Be ready to forgive
I don’t want any of my advice to be taken by people as a way of simply accepting clear problems within the family and suppressing feelings of jealousy which have a basis. Maybe things with you really aren’t going so smoothly and your partner is systematically cheating, and it’s not paranoia or fear which tells you this but established facts. (It’s hard to deny this when your spouse constantly disappears, comes home late at night and smells of perfume or cologne.)
In this case, it’s better not to deny the obvious, not to suppress bouts of jealousy, and to try to do something about your relationship. I’ve always been an advocate of putting right whatever’s happened, forgiving people and starting afresh before taking decisive action. I advise the same for you.
Infidelity isn’t always an indicator of the absence of love towards or from your spouse. Sometimes people cheat simply because they want more sex, even though they still love you. Sometimes they do it because they crave new victories on the love front, but they still love you. Sometimes it happens because a person succumbs to passion, but they still love you. Sometimes it happens as the result of a moment of weakness, a mistake for which they can be forgiven.
Infidelity isn’t as awful as it appears in your imagination or feelings. But if it happens, be ready to get through it together and live beyond it. It’s not the end of your life.
If you know that you’re capable of forgiving someone and starting to trust them again after what they’ve done, that infidelity doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship, that you’ll be able together to change and improve your joint life without repeating the same mistakes in future – then you’ll have even fewer reasons to be jealous!
But this requires the trust of both spouses – and their desire to develop their relationship!