Is Your Jealousy Healthy -- Or Ruining Your Relationship?

jealousy couple

Your partner gets a text at midnight from his new (cute) assistant. Do you: A) Inwardly seethe, B) freak out and insist he fire her, C) pretend it's all good and doesn't bother you at all, or D) feel confused?

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We're choosing D. After all, how are you supposed to feel when you're jealous? Is there an acceptable shade of envy? Because freaking out is so high school and doing nothing is just sort of doormat-y. There's got to be a happy medium, right?

Fortunately, yes.

See, jealousy arises when you (or your partner) feels insecure or threatened. You're afraid you might lose your relationship, and the attention, love, and affection you cherish is suddenly endangered.

Jealousy is normal. We all feel at at some point. 

And it can be healthy, says Tina B. Tessina, PhD (aka "Dr Romance"), a psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences and the upcoming How to Be Happy Partners: Working It Out Together, so long as "it's something you recognize in yourself and talk about calmly with your partner."

Unhealthy jealousy, on the other hand, "is a hallmark of an adversarial relationship," Tessina adds, "in which the partners don't honor, respect, or trust each other."

So ... not what you want.

Here's how to properly care and feed your magical green-eyed monster so it doesn't take over your love life.

Keep communication lines open. Maybe your partner has a tendency to flirt in a way that really hurts your feelings. Or, conversely, maybe he's always looking over his shoulder when you're talking with someone new.

Whatever the dynamic, remember: Jealousy breaks down trust. As soon as you start to feel upset, "talk about it," advises Tessina, "and encourage your partner to do the same."

Otherwise, those harmful feelings are going to fester.

More from The Stir: 8 Times Jealousy Drove Scorned Lovers to Do Something Crazy

Make a plan. If you were trying to lose weight, you'd plan your meals ahead of time, including what to do when you ate out. You need to be similarly proactive about situations that fuel jealousy. Because, uh, life happens. And envy will crop up and you and your partner need to know how you'll both deal.

"Make some agreements about how you'll behave and be willing to keep them," says Tessina.

That said, be realistic. "Don't frighten yourself or your partner by testing too hard, demanding the impossible, or risking too much," Tessina adds.

Respond with understanding and comfort. A healthy response to jealousy isn't laughing off your partner's insecurity. Or pretending that you have no clue what's going on. Once your SO opens up about their feelings, reassure them.

Remember that scenario from the intro? Let's say the tables are turned and your partner's accusing you of flirting with your assistant. Instead of rolling your eyes and saying, "Please," Tessina suggests trying something like: "I don't have any interest in her. We just have a good working relationship. But let's have lunch together and I'll make clear you and I are committed, in case there's any confusion."

Hopefully, your partner will follow your lead.

Expect a learning curve. Trust doesn't happen instantly, especially if you and your partner have had issues in the past. "Patience and communication are your best allies," Tessina says.

Be gentle with yourself and your partner. "You'll have much better luck," adds Tessina, "if you just see jealousy as a normal human problem and work it out together."

"Together" being the key word.

 

 

Image via iStock.com/Izabela Habur

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