I once heard a speaker say, "Getting rid of jealousy in a relationship is like trying to grab soap bubbles." It isn't real. The only way to end jealousy is to shift our mind–our consciousness to see the jealousy for what it really is–fear and control.
I looked up jealousy in the dictionary. It basically says, "We are fearful of losing affection or being replaced by another person." It also says that when we're jealous, we are cautious about guarding something. Knowing the definition helps to understand the real issues under a powerful emotion like jealousy.
Jealousy and Fear
When I am feeling jealous, what I really feel is scared. There is no question about whether my fear is real because I feel it in my body. I have a queasy, sick feeling in my stomach, my head is tight, and my mind starts racing at the very thought of losing my partner's affection.
But I can make that fear worse by expressing it through anger. In other words, when I feel jealous and pick a fight, say nasty, horrible things to my partner in the heat of the moment; and slam the door leaving the house–that will only make everything much worse.
But if I could say to my partner, "I'm scared of losing your love," or "I'm scared you don't love me anymore," I'll get through the intense emotional situation a lot quicker. Some people will balk at this because they're afraid of being vulnerable. Do you really believe picking a fight, lashing out, and leaving the house makes you look strong?
Think again. That's throwing a temper tantrum and acting like a child instead of a mature adult. It takes a lot of strength, humility, and self-knowledge to be vulnerable.
If I don't confront my fear directly and end up lashing out in anger when I feel jealous, this will:
Keep me from focusing on myself and what frightens me.
Create a lot of mess to mop up after the storm has passed.
Jealousy and Control
When we are jealous, we are trying to control the other person's feelings. This is where many of us get into sticky dramas that end up destroying our relationships.
Control never works because whether or not a person loves you is entirely out of your control. Simply said, we cannot force anyone to love us. So any attempts to control another person will ultimately backfire.
We will be a lot happier when we genuinely understand: Some things are in our control, and some things are not. Another person is definitely one of the things we cannot control.
We become jealous and miserable because we waste our energy trying to control the person rather than using that energy to explore and get honest about our real feelings.
Two Simple (not always easy) Steps of Letting Go
The first step in liberating yourself from jealousy is to find out what makes you afraid.
Are you fearful of being abandoned?
Are you afraid of being alone?
Are you worried that you are not going to be okay on your own?
Whatever it is, find out what is the core of the jealousy.
When I started learning how to let go of my jealousy, I learned that grief was buried under my jealousy. I had not fully recovered from the last time I had been abandoned in a relationship. The hurt feelings of the old trauma drove my desperate attempt to control my relationship.
Sometimes we're too quick to jump into a new relationship before we've dealt with the leftover pain, hurt, and grief from our last relationship. Just because a relationship ended six months or a year ago doesn't mean all of the fears, grief, pain, and jealousy have been healed.
Ask yourself, "What old hurts and fears are underneath my feelings of jealousy?"
The second step is to resonate with fear. This is hard. But talking about it won't do us any good unless we can let ourselves fully feel the fear we are experiencing on the inside. This is where the resonance helps.
The best way to get rid of something is not to try to get rid of it. What we resist persists. Instead, let it be, resonate with it and feel it completely. After that, talking about it can help because your words will be coming from a deep emotional contact with your fear. The problem with talking or venting is that words can be used to avoid feeling the actual fear.
So take the time to resonate with the issue first, feeling it in the body, and then talk with your special person - a friend, coach, therapist. Sometimes all we need is a listening ear.
Healthy Relationships and Jealousy
In a healthy, conscious relationship, jealousy is not recycled over and over because partners talk about it on a deep level, using the steps I just laid out.
Partners calmly discuss their fears, their old grief and ask for what they need and want from the other person. Remember, under all the anger and control of jealousy in the relationship are genuine feelings of fear and grief. The intense emotion of jealousy will dissolve naturally, and if it does return, repeat Steps 1 and 2.
If you're struggling with jealousy in your relationship, we are here to help. Check out our Imago Relationship Workshops and Relationship Therapy. We also have Online Couples Therapy and Online Couples Workshops right now!
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This blog was written by Paula M. Smith, M.Div., M.A. MFT.
Paula M. Smith, M.Div., MA, MFT is an Advanced Imago Clinician, Imago Workshop Presenter, Consultant, and Ph.D. Candidate (Fall 2020). She is also co-Founder of Imago Relationships-Providence with her spouse Yael Bat-Shimon a Certified Imago Therapist with whom she offers LGBTQ “Getting the Love You Want” Couples Weekend Workshops. As partners in an interracial marriage, Yael and Paula draw from their own relationship journey towards embracing, honoring, advocating, and celebrating each other’s differences and they help couples do the same.
Paula specializes in helping ALL couples create safe, healing, egalitarian, love-filled partnerships in deeply perceptive, precise, and appropriately playful ways.
For 15 years, Paula has worked exclusively with couples. Over the past 6 years, she has developed a specialization in 2 and 3 Day Private Intensives for couples in crisis, engaged couples, and couples struggling with the aftermath of an affair. The Couple Private Intensives are exclusive, profound, and life-changing. Paula is passionate about intensives because they allow couples to explore relational issues that cannot be discussed fully in shorter sessions. She dives deep with partners over a span of days for exploration, understanding, healing, and fun. Paula opens couples’ eyes to previously unseen and unfolding possibilities in their connection.
Paula has a passion and excitement for life and living. Having experienced the miracle of healing and recovery herself, her life’s work is rooted in a deep belief in the transformative power of relationships. She been active in 12-step spiritual communities for 33 years and has offered workshops for Couples in Recovery. She has also taught courses on topics related to Race, Racism, and Healing at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Medical School, and Rhode Island College.
Paula is a member of the RI Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, Association of Pastoral Counselors, Imago Relationship International, Antioch Alumni Association, and Harvard Alumni Association, and a co-author of the article “Marriage & Family Therapy Training Programs and Their Integration of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identities,” published in the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy and “Post Katrina Theology," published in Harvard Divinity Magazine.