How to Understand and Overcome Jealous Feelings

Having jealous feelings? Since the dawn of time, jealousy has been as prevalent an emotion as love. Read on to learn more.
How to Understand and Overcome Jealous Feelings

Last update: 14 April, 2021

Having jealous feelings? Let’s face it, although it’s not our intention, sometimes we’re most jealous of those we love. But, if we realized what’s at stake, we’d make a conscious effort to shy away from this negative feeling. At some point in our lives, we all feel jealous or envious of other people. However, it’s when we start acting on those jealous feelings that it becomes unhealthy and potentially dangerous.

In fact, since the dawn of time, jealousy has been as prevalent an emotion as love. It’s a central and common theme in many films and other art forms throughout history. For example, brilliant, English playwright and poet Shakespeare called it the green-eyed monster. Biblically, jealousy is a common narrative, too. Think about Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam. Cain killed his younger brother in a jealous rage. 

Perhaps not quite as romantic to talk about or express if you possess it. However, it’s inevitably something we all feel—to some degree—but prefer to keep silent about. When we become consumed with the pervading idea that we lack things, we slowly become blind to what we already have, and we become ungrateful for those gifts. Thus, let’s stop defining jealousy. 

Firstly, it’s resentment of someone enjoying success or advantage. Secondly, it’s the fear of losing something you feel is yours (rightly or wrongly) to someone else. For instance, your spouse, your best friend, coworker, etc. Ralph Hupka, Professor of Psychology at California State University says, “Jealousy is an anticipatory emotion. It seeks to prevent loss”. 

So what’s at the core of YOUR jealous feelings? Nothing can ruin a relationship faster than jealousy. Likewise, no one wants a jealous partner, sibling, colleague, or friend. And nobody enjoys feeling jealous or living out their jealousy with bizarre, hurtful behavior. The ever-pressing question is. How can we overcome it? What should we do to better address twinges of jealousy? Here are a few steps you should try:

Understand your triggers

Jealousy in a relationship is truly about your own vulnerabilities than about the person’s actions. For instance, you may be prone to jealousy if you’ve had painful experiences in your past. It’s important to talk to your partner or friend about these experiences. Therefore, you’ll be mindful of each other’s triggers and respect them. 

Low self-esteem or a poor self-image can drive those jealous feelings. If you don’t feel attractive and confident, it’s hard to believe that your partner loves and values you. In other words, unrealistic expectations often cause jealousy. It isn’t healthy for partners or friends to spend 100% of their time together. In fact, according to writer Kahlil Gibran, “You need spaces in your togetherness to sustain your bond”.

Remember that feelings aren’t facts. Are you imagining things that aren’t really there? I encourage my clients to ask themselves, “Is that so?” or “Is it really happening?” If the answer is no, let go of the negative thoughts. Most importantly, acknowledge them before consciously dismissing them.

Feelings of jealousy can become problematic if they affect your behavior. Likewise, if they affect your feelings toward the relationship as a whole. Here are some signs of unhealthy jealous behaviors:

  • Checking the person’s phone or email without permission.
  • Insulting the person.
  • Assuming that your spouse isn’t attracted to you.
  • Grilling the person on their whereabouts throughout the day.
  • Accusing the person of lying without evidence.

If you recognize any of these behaviors in your relationship, seek to understand the vulnerabilities beneath. If you need a little extra help doing this, we recommend working under the guidance of a highly-trained therapist.

Use jealousy for good

Firstly, jealousy in any relationship is also a very real and reasonable reaction to the person’s actions. Remember that, in a good enough relationship, people have high expectations for how they’re treated. In other words, they expect to be treated with kindness, love, affection, and respect. Lastly, they also expect loyalty and honesty from the other person. 

If the answer to the question “Is that so?” is yes, then it’s vital to take action. Therefore, tell the person how you feel before your jealous feelings turn into resentment. When you bring it up, stick to “I” statements. So, avoid saying things like “You always” or “You never”. Talk about your feelings about the specific situation and avoid blanket statements about your partner’s character. 

Lastly, say what you need, not what you don’t need. For example, “I feel anxious when I don’t know where you are or who you’re with when you’re out. I need you to text me and let me know”.

Consequently, the more you talk, the healthier your relationship will be. Is there a specific relationship that’s making you uncomfortable? Are you finding that you’re being stonewalled or that your partner’s behavior has recently changed?

You should be open and upfront with each other about friendships and work relationships. Therefore, transparency will help you feel more confident. Are you still not sure about boundaries? A great rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “How would I feel if my partner was having this kind of conversation with someone else?” If that would hurt you, your partner crossed a boundary.

Likewise, show how much you value each other by putting your relationship before your work and your friends. Every time you do this, you build trust. By understanding what’s driving your feelings and honoring each other’s endearing vulnerabilities, you’ll use jealousy for good.

Be honest

Struggling with jealous feelings? Your partner probably already noticed. Most importantly, your partner’s most likely also contributing to the problem. However, by practicing effective communication, you’ll utterly acknowledge your contribution. But also hold your partner accountable, giving them the opportunity to support you while working on a solution.

In other words, be emotionally intelligent with yourself first and those that are important to you. No one can read your mind. If you’re feeling jealous, be open with yourself about your intentions. Do you feel more deserving to be in that new position at work? Do you have cause to think your partner is cheating? Have you been cheated on before? Sadly, we’re often unaware of what’s going on subconsciously. 

Therefore, it’s up to you to find the root of your insecurity and then address it. Don’t hide it, as it doesn’t have to be a deep secret that you carry. Likewise, it’s vital to trust each other. Jealousy stems from a lack of trust. For instance, lack of trust in the process of life, in your partner, and in yourself. 

Besides, lack of trust breeds insecurity, which creates jealousy. In fact, we stifle these feelings because they’re uncomfortable. It’s a vicious cycle. Thus, as long as your thoughts and energy are focused on what you could lose, that’s exactly what’ll happen. Lastly, this is the cold hard truth about jealousy: it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Don’t waste time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind.

-Mary Schmich-

Consider what your jealous feelings are telling you

Psychology Today offers a family therapist’s view on how to stop jealous feelings in a relationship, “Rather than view jealousy as a problem, look at it as a solution”. Believe it or not, jealousy is a window of opportunity we can peer through to gain clarity. And this goes for any relationship issue. Therefore, instead of shutting down the jealous behavior outright, seek to understand it first. 

What problem is jealousy attempting to solve? If you’re feeling jealous because your partner broke your trust, it’s the breach of trust that’s the real problem. Likewise, if you’re projecting your insecurities onto your partner, it’s your insecurities that need attention. If you’re jealous of your partner’s successes, perhaps there’s an unhealthy element of competition that you need to eliminate. 

Whatever the cause, look at jealousy as a “solution”. So, working backward from there will help you get to the bottom. You’ll learn how to stop being jealous in a relationship. By getting to the real problem, you’re able to address it to find lasting relief. Most importantly, consider the source of your insecurity. 

Mastering how to stop being jealous in a relationship is a matter of healing the wounds of the past. Are you struggling with jealousy due to an unresolved issue like childhood trauma or addiction? If so, get the support you need to overcome it. With the right help, you can transform your struggles into sources of strength.

Build healthy coping skills

Sadly, it’s often hard to let go of jealous feelings if you don’t have healthier ways to relate. But since your partner isn’t giving you a reason to be jealous, it’s up to find the source. For example, cheating on you or habitually lying. So, recognize that you don’t need jealousy, you’re just used to it. Likewise, practice self-care and nurture your physical, emotional, and mental health. 

When you prioritize healthy coping mechanisms, they become the norm and eventually replace jealousy. It’s paramount that you prevent yourself from fixating on what you don’t have. On the other hand, shift your perspective to the fact that your desires are revealing themselves through your actions. The big question and hard truth are, “How are you spending your days?” What you desire should be a source of inspiration, which offers power.

For instance, motivation, and the ability to work toward a goal, no matter how big or small. Having jealous feelings? Jealousy is an extraordinarily powerful tool if used to propel yourself to get what you most desire. Don’t be afflicted with envy. On the other hand, use this envious energy to help you work towards what’ll bring you what you desire. And less of what you feel you lack.

In short, emotions are simply something you experience. But you don’t have to become them. See your jealous feelings as a sign that something in you warrants your awareness. Therefore, bring it to your consciousness and use it for positive change. Be it in your relationships with yourself or those you hold dearest to you.

It might interest you...
Token Economy to Change Behavior
Exploring your mind
Read it in Exploring your mind
Token Economy to Change Behavior

The token economy is a widely used behavior modification technique. Its use aims to promote and reinforce non-spontaneous behavior.