Jealous much? Making peace with the green eyed monster

Jealous much?

Jealousy will sabotage and destroy you. Down with the green-eyed-monster, with envy, resentment and bitter, begrudgement. I’m calling time on jealousy.

Why? I’m glad you asked.

Jealousy is linked to increased stress hormones in the body and even a higher risk of Alzheimer’s in women. Who has time for that?

What the hell is JEALOUSY?

We often use the terms jealousy and envy synonymously, but there’s a difference between the two – jealousy leans more toward scarcity. We are envious when someone has something we want to have; we feel jealous when we’re afraid of losing what we already have.

In intimate relationships and marriage, jealousy is the snooping, secretive trust-killer who’s ready and waiting to derail your relationship given half an opportunity.

In friendships, it’s more usually the envy that creeps along with the news of your friends’ weight loss/job promotion/adorbs Valentine’s Day gift, etc… it’s the part of your brain which desires what she has. Envy is the gap between what you have, and what you want (and what she has).

In day-to-day life, it might also be that insidious, envious feeling of need to ‘Keeping up with The Joneses’ – be that your neighbours, colleagues or those that you follow on instagram, or it may be jealousy when you lose a promotion to a favoured workmate.

Jealousy may be natural, but it’s also unhelpful – depending on how you react to it.

Jealousy in relationships can be fatal, envy can sabotage even the closest friendships, and spending time coveting and resenting others for having more than you is just downright depressing.

First, though, let’s talk about Dealing with Jealousy in your Marriage or Relationship.

“Don’t you get jealous or worry about Blair [and other girls] when he’s away”

As most of you will be aware, my husband is often away. That can bring considerable benefits to our relationship, such as regular holidays, or the ability to accompany him on work trips. I love being able to travel with him – who else can go to work with their husband to hang out in cool cities. Yes, it can be awesome. Also, it can absolutely SUCK.

Case in point: it’s our second Wedding Anniversary tomorrow. He’s in London. Last year, he was in LA. Instead of celebrating with a romantic dinner, I stayed up all night creating I still do wedding anniversary journal. He misses 2/3 Christmases, is away at least half of every week, and when he’s home he’s often sometimes tired and grumpy.

Oh, and did I mention he also travels with a group of attractive and lovely girls..? Granted, that’s not all of them, but if I made room for jealousy in our relationship, I’d definitely find reasons to be suspicious. Oh, and when he’s overseas, he could take off his wedding ring and walk into any bar in any city and hit on pretty girls, and I’d likely be none-the-wiser.

Why I almost never get jealous.

I met Blair 12 years ago when he was studying, and knowing that his future job would take him away from me every week or so. Having now been with him since I was 18, I also cottoned on pretty early to the fact that he would encounter attractive women in his line of work. Here’s the thing, though… All men come across attractive women in their day to day lives. If not at work, then at bars, and shops, rubbing shoulders with them at the supermarket, or even at strip clubs.

I recently shared on my instagram pictures of Calendar Girls dollars… and some of the messages I received were not very supportive of the Stag Do activity!

Dr John Demartini explains “Jealousy is a biological system for fear of loss of something that we value.” So if you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to lose. I am secure in my relationship and trust him 100%. I am not afraid of being rejected,  I have no fear of infidelity or dishonesty.

I married him because I trust him. I can’t imagine a relationship without trust, or on the contrary, I can’t imagine being in a relationship where I’d want to be snooping or be secretive. I believe relationships should be built on honesty and trust.

However, if I ever did have any creeping feelings of jealousy or fear, I also have tools to lessen them, which might bring you a little relief too.

Recognise and rationalise your feelings

It’s normal to feel a little angst about your partner’s new (and very attractive) colleague, or wonder whether he’s being hit on by girls if he’s out at a bar. Maybe he is even flirting with the waitress, because he wants to have his ego validated. That doesn’t mean he’s about to cheat on you, or leave you for her.

When you find yourself getting feelings of jealousy or mistrust, try to rationalise your feelings, and his behaviour, and remind yourself of the following tools:

1. Avoid Catastrophizing

In situations where I feel myself getting caught up in ‘what if’s’, I use the following thinking pattern (coming from a book called “The Resilience Factor”). The whole premise of this exercise is to avoid catastrophizing what are commmonly referred to as ‘thinking traps’:

a) consider the worst case scenario
b) consider the base case scenario
c) consider the mid-point of these scenarios

For example – I know Blair is supposed to have landed in his destination for work, and he hasn’t messaged me. I call his phone but he doesn’t answer. a) Worst case scenario: He could have been involved in a terrible plane crash, or gone out drinking with his colleagues and didn’t go back to the hotel; b) Best case scenario – he woke up early and instead of texting to wake me, went to Rodeo Drive and bought me one of every it-bag available, possibly some shoes too. He has no service there, and he’s too busy shopping to text me anyway… obviously.

Though this exercise may seem simple and you may feel silly doing it, often I find when you break down your feelings you can come to a rational and measured conclusion – he’s as unlikely to be in my worst case scenario as he is likely to be in the best case. The mid-point of those is that he has checked into his hotel and crashed, was too tired to get onto the wifi (or it wasn’t working) or simply he has forgotten to text back.

2. Trust and Communicate. Do. NOT. Snoop.

We hear these terms all the time but they cannot be stressed enough. Talk to your partner, let them know what makes you feel worried or jealous. Trust them, and trust yourself. When women are feeling anxious or worried, they need to get to the bottom of it. Many want to check the messages on his phone or Facebook, log into his email, or go through his jeans pockets for receipts.

Unfortunately, you may find something. 999 times out of 1000, it’s not going to be evidence of him cheating, but it could be something completely innocent out of which you can concoct a story around (worst case scenario), or something innocuous which, if you hadn’t found, would have never caused a bump in your relationship.

You can justify their behaviour with their “intuition” and saying you just knew something is up, and then you will actually find something up, to validate your behaviour.

When that occurs, and you find something which could be innocent, or could be serious, you find yourself in a catch 22. You can confront him about it, and lose his trust and respect, or you can seeth away ruminating about what it all could mean, and stop trusting him anyway. Yes, checking his messages could result in you discovering his infidelity (or unequivocally sexual messages), and the relationship ending, but even if you don’t discover infidelity, it will end the trust.

Instead of invading his privacy… if things don’t feel right, have a conversation. In order to have a trusting relationship, you need to build it as such from the beginning. You need to feel comfortable and able to discuss everything. Jealousy can provide an opportunity to improve mutual understanding, build greater trust, and help partners become clearer about their commitment to one another.

3. Be Objective

As well as being rational, be objective and identify what exactly is making you jealous. Is it something they have done, or do you think it is something about how you are feeling in yourself? Talk to a friend – the kind of friend who will be truly objective. Consider what sort of advice you would give your friend if they came to you, how would you talk them ‘off the ledge’ of distrust, so to speak. Listen to that advice.

Understand that jealousy is part of our evolutionary biology. It served an essential purpose in the days of our ancestors, when resources were scarce and only the strongest ‘mates’ survived. However, just because your body feels jealousy as an emotion does not objectively mean that you actually have anything to worry about. Your feelings are normal, but they probably hijacking reality.

4. Accept Some Uncertainty, and Challenge your Negative Thoughts

Be realistic about your expectations – you cannot expect to know what your partner’s movements are at every point throughout the day. Uncertainty is part of any relationship and you cannot ultimately control someones feelings. Learning to deal with not controlling everything can be extremely liberating. As the mantra (that is the premise of A.A.) goes “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

In his book, The Worry Cure, Robert Leahy recommends you accept and challenge your negative thoughts, not allowing them to overcome you. If we think something often enough, we start to believe it. This is why it is essential to challenge, or “fact-check” our thoughts and not believe everything we think.

Leahy also recommends “the bored technique”. He suggests choosing a triggering thought; for example, “She is going to leave me for her colleague,” or “I know he finds her attractive,” and then repeating that thought 100 times. Though your anxiety will likely spike the first 10, 20 or 50 times, eventually, the thought will begin to lose some of its power.

5. Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

If, like me, you are in a relationship where your partner is often away, focussing on the positive sides of it can minimise any negative feelings. It gives you more time for your friends, your hobbies and (from my experience) actually makes you enjoy their company more when they’re around.

If you do find yourself struggling with intense feelings of jealousy, it’s important to look at the underlying fears and the implications of being betrayed, or your fear of losing them. Any partner who loves and respects you will do everything they can to alleviate those fears, just be open  about your feelings.

Hopefully you have found this post helpful and can pick up one or two strategies if you are in the position where jealousy is visiting your relationship. If you truly can’t find it in yourself to trust your partner, look honestly at the relationship and ask yourself some hard questions about whether it’s the best relationship for you both.

I would love to hear any of your comments or ideas on how you tame jealousy. x

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