Jealousy is a normal emotion. In fact, everyone experiences jealousy at some point in their lives. But problems can arise when jealousy moves from a healthy emotion to an unhealthy and irrational one.
Too much jealousy and trust issues in marriage will wear down your relationship, as it permeates all aspects of the relationship.
Irrational and excessive jealousy can eventually destroy your marriage. Here’s a look at jealousy and steps you can take to overcome this emotion in your marriage.
What Is Jealousy?
Jealousy is a reaction to a perceived threat—real or imagined—to a valued relationship.
A little jealousy can be reassuring in a relationship and may even be programmed into us. However, a lot of jealousy is overwhelming and scary, especially because it can lead to dangerous behaviors like stalking, digital dating violence, and physical abuse.
There’s no reason to believe that jealousy will improve without being addressed. Jealousy is not an emotion that can be banished with wishful thinking.
It takes a lot of time and effort to deal with jealousy in a marriage. But, you can take appropriate measures to unlearn and detangle the deep roots of jealousy.
Normal vs. Unhealthy Jealousy
Occasional jealousy is natural, but when it becomes intense or irrational, it can seriously damage a relationship. Being able to distinguish between healthy jealousy and unhealthy jealousy is important to the success of your marriage.
In relationships where feelings of jealousy are mild and occasional, it reminds couples not to take each other for granted. Jealousy also can motivate couples to appreciate one another and make a conscious effort to make sure their partner feels valued.
Jealousy also heightens emotions, making love feel stronger and sex more passionate.
In small, manageable doses, jealousy can be a positive force in a marriage.
When a healthy relationship experiences jealousy, it comes from a place of protection. One person sees a potential threat to the marriage and expresses concern or jealousy. Together, the couple discusses the issue rationally and comes to an agreement on how to move forward. They are both committed to the relationship and are not insecure about who they are as individuals.
Irrational or excessive jealousy is often a warning sign of a potentially abusive relationship.
Eventually, jealous people feel so overwhelmed by their emotions and insecurities that they will begin to exert control over their partners. They may even resort to financial abuse, verbal bullying, and violence in order to maintain control and alleviate or mask their feelings.
Unhealthy jealousy is rooted more in fear of abandonment and a worry about not being truly loved. Unhealthy jealousy is characterized by:
- Being paranoid about what the partner is doing or feeling
- Demanding an account of where the partner has been
- Displaying unusual insecurity and fear
- Engaging in storytelling and making accusations that are not true
- Excessively questioning a partner’s behaviors and motives
- Following or stalking a partner to confirm whereabouts
- Infringing on the partner’s freedom or prohibiting them from seeing friends or family
- Reading emails and texts or listening to voicemails expecting to discover infidelity or a lie
- Texting a partner non-stop when the couple is apart
What Are The Basis of Jealousy?
When faced with a situation that might provoke jealousy, someone who struggles with this emotion may respond with fear, anger, grief, worry, sadness, doubt, pain, self-pity, and humiliation. They also may generally feel suspicious or threatened, or they may struggle with a sense of failure.
- Being insecure or having a poor self-image
- Fearing abandonment or betrayal
- Feeling intense possessiveness or a desire for control
- Having a misguided sense of ownership over a spouse
- Having unrealistic expectations about marriage in general
- Maintaining unrealistic expectations of a spouse
- Reliving a hurtful experience of abandonment in the past
- Worrying about losing someone or something important
How Insecurity Ruins Relationships
Eventually, jealousy can lead to resentment and defensiveness. It also will destroy the trust in a relationship and lead to more arguments, especially if the jealous person makes demands and constantly questions the other person.
Intense emotional experiences can also result in physical symptoms. Sometimes jealous people struggle with physical reactions like trembling, dizziness, depression, and having trouble sleeping. Their constant anger and need for reassurance also can lead to the end of the marriage or relationship, especially if they become abusive and do not deal with their jealousy in healthy ways.
How to Deal With Jealousy in a Relationship
If you’re experiencing jealousy in your marriage, it is important to address it before it gets out of hand. Both you and your partner can learn how to handle jealousy in a healthy way.
There will be people and situations that threaten the security of your marriage. Whether it is a flirtatious co-worker or a job that requires a lot of travel, it is normal to experience a little bit of jealousy. The important thing is that you take time to talk about your concerns and agree on some boundaries that will protect your marriage and your hearts.
For instance, you both may agree that limiting contact with a flirtatious co-worker is important for the health of the marriage. Or, you may decide that talking at bedtime while one spouse is on the road may alleviate concerns. The key is that you discuss the issues calmly and come up with solutions together.
Get to the Root of the Feeling
When one partner is feeling jealous on a consistent basis, it is important to find out why that is happening. For instance, is the jealous partner feeling insecure because you are not spending much time together as a couple? Or, does the marriage have trust issues due to infidelity? Ask questions. Try to understand where the jealousy is coming from and what can be done to alleviate it.
Create an Atmosphere of Trust
One of the best ways to guard against jealousy is to create an atmosphere of trust. This process begins with both partners being trustworthy. In other words, they are faithful, committed, and honest. Trustworthy people do not lie about how they are spending their time. They also do not cheat on their spouses. If you both guard against these pitfalls, the trust in the relationship will grow and crowd out jealousy.
Develop a Healthy Attachment
Find ways to spend time together and bond. A marriage is more than just living together and sharing a bed. It involves showing affection, spending time together, and building an attachment to one another. Any threats to your attachment should be a cause for concern. Jealousy is appropriate when it is a signal that the marriage is at risk.
Recognize When Jealousy Is Abusive
Jealousy in response to a real threat to the relationship is normal. But, if one partner is jealous for no reason, this could be a red flag—especially if the jealousy includes extreme anger, unrealistic expectations, and unfounded accusations. What’s more, this type of jealousy is not a one-time thing. It is a pattern of behavior that repeats itself over and over.
Another hallmark of abusive or unhealthy jealousy is an attempt to exert control over another person as well as making outlandish accusations. If you are regularly defending yourself against your partner’s unreasonable or accusatory questions, that is a red flag. You need to get help right away before things spiral out of control.
Coping With Your Own Jealousy
If you are the one experiencing jealousy in your relationships, you may want to think about why. For instance, do you struggle with self-esteem or are you afraid your partner will leave you? Or has your partner been unfaithful in the past and you are worried it will happen again?
Either way, your feelings need to be dealt with. The best way to do that is to find a counselor or a therapist who can help you learn to manage your jealousy in healthy ways.
Like most other difficult emotional experiences, if treated correctly, jealousy can be a trigger for growth. Addressing jealousy can become the first step in increased self-awareness and greater understanding for both you and your partner. Here are some steps to overcoming your jealous feelings:
- Accept that your jealousy is hurting your marriage.
- Admit that you’re jealous.
- Agree not to spy on your spouse.
- Discuss the roots of your jealous feelings.
- Make a decision to change your behavior.
- Realize you cannot control someone else, but you can control your reaction.
- Seek professional help as a couple if necessary.
- Set fair ground rules that you can both agree to.