‘green-eyed monster’ of Jealousy in Marriage

Finding yourself bothered by the ‘green-eyed monster’? You’re not alone. Many people find themselves dealing with jealous feelings in relationships and just as many find it difficult to admit to.

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Jealousy is a painful emotion, and most of us hate to admit that we ever feel it. To be romantically jealous is to recognize that your partner might feel attraction to someone else, that he or she might act on that feeling, and that you might be powerless to stop it. This awareness can trigger a cocktail of emotions so noxious—rage, insecurity, self-doubt, embarrassment—that many people prefer to deny its existence.

Whereas jealousy is often thought of as a distinct effective state, some conceptualize jealousy as being comprised of component emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness. The precise blend of emotions felt may depend on the situation. For example, if a valued relationship is lost due to a gradual process of drifting apart, sadness may be the most acute emotion, whereas loss of a relationship as a result of a betrayal may accompanied by feelings of anger. How much control an individual has over the situation is another factor. When an individual feels he or she has have little control over the situation, sadness, passivity, or helplessness may result. Conversely, when an individual feels he or she can affect the situation, anger may be the more natural emotion.

The emotions underlying jealousy can be further differentiated, as research suggests that intensity and frequency represent distinct components of an affective state . Affect intensity is a stable individual characteristic defined in terms of the typical strength of an individual’s response across emotion categories.

Even at non-extreme levels, jealousy can have a negative impact on individuals and relationships. Peer relationships with high levels of experienced or expressed jealousy are often marked by high levels of conflict and aggression.  The type of relationship threat affects outcomes as well. Empirical studies have consistently shown that jealousy in response to an imagined threat is associated more strongly with negative outcomes than jealousy in response to a real threat.

Romantic relationships are at risk for negative consequences stemming from jealousy. Relationship expectations, such as being emotionally close or having high levels of companionship, are higher for romantic relationships than for either same-sex or cross-sex friendships. This is the case even when romantic relationships are shorter in duration than either type of friendship.

How to Handle Jealousy in Marriage

If your marriage is experiencing jealousy issues, it is important to address it before it gets out of hand. Here are some suggestions for handling jealousy in a healthy way.

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Realize That Some Jealousy Is Normal

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.

Get to the Root of the Jealousy

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? Rather than get defensive or offended by jealousy, ask questions. Try to understand where the jealousy is coming from and what can be done to alleviate it.

Don’t blame and accuse

Jealousy can lead us to fantasize about the alleged dark reasons why our beloved is on Facebook all the time — he’s not over his ex! — or can’t seem to put his phone down long enough to eat dinner.

But before you launch into a fit of jealous rage, take a deep breath. Hurling angry, unfounded accusations will always do more harm than good.

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.

Talk about it

When something like jealousy is taking over, it’s important to find the right person to talk to and a healthy way to express what we feel. The people who support a positive side of us and who help stop us from ruminating or sinking deeper into our sorrows are the kind of friends we want to talk to about our jealousy. We all have friends who get a little too worked up when we bring up certain subjects, and these may not be the best friends to seek out when we ourselves are feeling triggered and riled up. We should try to find people who will support us staying on track and being the kind of individuals we want to be.

It is important to keep in mind that there is no simple and easy solution to jealousy.  It usually requires trial and error to discover what works for your individual situation.  And jealousy can bring up many powerful feelings and unpredictable emotions.  So be gentle with yourself and your partners, and don’t expect instant changes.  Try to be understanding of each person’s needs and feelings.  Make every effort to create a “win-win” situation for everyone by giving each person as much voice as possible in decisions and rule-making.  And be willing to compromise to make sure everyone’s needs are met.

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