Jealousy is a very common issue in life and in relationships. In my 45 years of counseling couples and individuals, this is an issue that has come up over and over. Sometimes the issue is my client's jealousy, sometimes it is about how to deal with a partner's jealousy, and sometimes it is about jealousy over what others have.
Mattie wrote to me asking:
Jealousy is such an easily aroused feeling. When I feel it rising, what suggestions can you offer to counteract?
Mattie, it is best to heal the underlying reasons for jealousy BEFORE they arise. You might feel jealous because:
- You judge yourself as not being good enough.
When you judge yourself, you cause yourself to feel shamed and inadequate, which then causes you to fear that someone else is better than you. This causes you to fear losing your partner -- hence, the jealousy.
- You might be ignoring taking loving care of your feelings and needs.
When you ignore your own feelings and needs -- by focusing in your head rather than your heart, and by turning to various addictions to avoid your feelings -- you then end up feeling unlovable and unimportant. This can easily lead to feeling jealous toward others.
- You might be making your partner responsible for your sense of safety and worth.
If this is the case, then you will feel scared and jealous when your partner gives attention to someone else.
Healing jealousy means doing your inner work to learn how to take loving care of your own feelings and needs, so that you are no longer triggered into jealousy by others. The key in healing jealousy is to learn to love rather reject yourself. Practicing Inner Bonding is an excellent way of achieving this.
Your Partner's Jealousy
How is the best way to react to a boyfriend who is extremely jealous of all other men around me? I feel I have to justify or explain myself towards him all the time.
Amy, justifying or explaining yourself is the last thing that will help. Your boyfriend's jealousy is coming from his insecurity due to his own self-abandonment -- judging himself, ignoring his feelings, turning to addictions to numb feelings, and making you responsible for his feelings of worth and adequacy. Here are some ways of dealing with his jealousy that might help your relationship:
- Instead of justifying or explaining, ask him, with much kindness and compassion, "Why are you jealous? What is going on within you that is causing you to be jealous?"
You need to accept that you have no control over his feelings and behavior. When you explain and defend, you are trying to control him and get him to believe you. Then you are each trying to control each other, which never works well. By handing it back to him or disengaging, you are supporting him in doing the inner work that Mattie -- in the earlier example -- needs to do.
Jealousy Over What Others Have
I'm jealous of my neighbors who have lots of expensive new cars, minivans and pickup trucks in what may be a brazen display of conspicuous consumption. I, on the other hand, can only afford to drive a 10-year-old Honda. How do I overcome my jealousy of my neighbors?
David, there are two ways of defining ourselves -- externally and internally. It sounds like you are defining your self-worth externally -- by your possessions or success -- rather than internally by your intrinsic qualities. When you learn to define yourself by your goodness, kindness, caring and compassion, then you will look at their "brazen display of conspicuous consumption" as indications of their low self-esteem. People who genuinely feel good about themselves don't need things to bolster their self-esteem. Your jealousy will vanish when you learn to see and value yourself. As I stated earlier, the practice of Inner Bonding is a wonderful way of learning how to love and value yourself.
I encourage all of you who experience jealousy to do your inner work to heal your low sense of self-worth. I encourage all of you who are with someone who is jealous to be kind, loving and supportive with your partner, but not to take responsibility for his or her feelings. That is their job, not yours, since their feelings about themselves come primarily from how they treat themselves. Your love and support can help to heal them, but only if they are interested in learning to love and value themselves.
People who reject and abandon themselves often feel jealous. People who love and value themselves do not feel jealous. They are not threatened by others, because they know their own intrinsic worth. While others can help you to see and value yourself, they cannot do it for you. If you continue to reject/judge yourself and abandon responsibility for your own feelings, you will likely continue to feel jealous.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.