Jealousy can be toxic to a relationship. I meet with many clients who regularly fight this demon. If you experience extreme jealousy it will require professional attention.
I recently met with a very insecure middle-aged woman who wanted help for her jealous tendencies. Her boyfriend, who “treated her like gold”, was beginning to tire of her constant badgering when he conversed, looked at, or interacted with other women. Despite the fact that he always included her in his conversations, it continued to trigger deep insecurities and a feeling that she did not measure up. In her previous relationship she had experienced adultery. (If jealousy is a by product of an affair, it will improve once the partner works diligently at making amends and reassuring his or her spouse that there is true remorse as well as an honest effort at rebuilding the relationship). In my client’s case, her husband left her.
Extreme jealousy is a sickness and should not be minimized. It can be extremely destructive to a relationship and will eventually wear a partner down. Jealousy stems from a sense of extreme insecurity and a need to control.
My client reported that she was with her boyfriend daily and he complimented her frequently about her looks, her heart, and her actions. His friendliness was a part of him and he made it clear that he was not going to change that about himself.
My client was miserable and she sensed that her boyfriend was losing interest in her because she was more and more unpleasant to be around. This woman needed some severe work!
I asked her to make a list of all of the positive aspects of their relationship. Her list included the amount of time he spent with her, the fact he complimented her frequently, their sexual interaction together, his inclusion of her with his family, and so on. I then asked her to list the many situations that provoked her jealousy. Her written responses included, “He frequently talks to other women” “He smiles at them” “He is kind to other women”
It was her assignment to keep her list” on her body” at all times. The minute she felt the feeling of jealousy she was to excuse herself from the situation, read her list, and work on replacing the thoughts. She then was asked to do something physical to connect with her boyfriend as they walked away or after he hung up the phone. It might include squeezing his hand, putting her arm around him, kissing or smiling at him, or whispering something sweet into his ear. I made it her responsibility to redirect her thoughts and feelings and I asked her to do this each and every time she felt the pang of insecurity and jealousy.
She reported that although the homework was tough, it clearly left her feeling more secure and in control. Her boyfriend also received the perks from her initial feelings of insecurity and jealousy. After six months she admitted her jealousy was only about 50% improved. I retorted that she had made remarkable progress. I suspect if she continues her techniques she will modify her jealousy to a manageable level in their relationship.
Remember, jealousy is normal. At least 75% of all people feel it. If your jealousy chronically interferes with your relationships you need to learn how to manage it or change the relationship.
If the jealousy is about your insecurity it won’t get better on its own…until you do!