Unless you’re Nick Jonas circa 2014, jealousy isn’t a good look (and won’t launch your solo career the way you want it to…trust). But hey, it happens—even when you’re in an otherwise happy relationship with an amazing partner. In fact, there are two types of jealousy in relationships, according to Dr Terri Orbuch, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great and professor at Oakland University in Michigan. (Fun!)
The first: “reactive jealousy” — which is basically when you become aware of an actual threat to your relationship. (Read: There’s something to react to.) The second one — “suspicious jealousy” — is the reason you just can’t resist taking a peek at your BF’s phone when he’s in the bathroom.
Suspicious jealousy, Orbuch says, “occurs when a partner hasn’t misbehaved.” Despite there being “no proof that this person has engaged in any behaviour that would significantly and perhaps legitimately threaten the future of the relationship,” your insecurities in the relationship, low self-confidence, or mistrust in your partner fuel your suspicion and eventual jealousy.
“This distinction is important, because almost everyone feels reactive jealousy when they realize their partner has been unfaithful or is doing something that jeopardizes the relationship,” she explains. “However, people vary in their tendencies to feel suspicious jealousy in the absence of any real threat.”
That’s because “some people seem to be more naturally or temperamentally jealous than others,” explains Dr Jill Squyres, a clinical psychologist in Colorado and Texas. Oh, and another super fun thing about relationship jealousy: You can inherit it from your parents (not so upset about getting your mom’s nose now, hmm?).
“Jealous parents will likely convey permissive or even encouraging attitudes about the role of jealousy in committed relationships,” she explains.
And another (sorta obvious) culprit: your past. If you’ve been burned by a cheating partner in the past, you might be more prone to jealousy because you don’t want to get fooled again. (I mean, I get it.)
To keep yourself from going green with envy, here are seven expert-approved tips guaranteed to kick jealousy to the curb:
1. Know yourself (and your little green-eyed monster).
Before you go all Sherlock Holmes on your S.O.’s social media, take stock of your natural inclination toward jealousy, suggests Squyres. Reflect on moments when that annoying feeling reared its ugly head and what events, if any, provoked them.
That can help you suss out whether that jealous feeling gnawing at you is based on solid intuition, or if it’s just anxiety or fear of losing your partner masquerading as intuition. “If you are rarely jealous, your gut instinct likely has more justification than if you are chronically jealous,” she explains.
READ MORE: So You Cheated On Your Partner — Now What?
2. Come off the offensive.
Instead of confronting your partner with guns a’blazing, just tell them how you’re feeling. (Try using “I” statements — like, “I’m feeling like X because of Y” — to take away some of the accusatory vibes.)
“Talking it over with your partner is the best way to determine if you have something to worry about and what to do about it,” says Squyres. Doing so can also help you jumpstart an open dialogue about what might trigger jealousy in you and your partner (it’s bound to happen to them, too), so you can both be sensitive to any reasonable concerns going forward.
If you hash things out and they ensure you that your jealousy is unfounded — and you still feel it — you may want to consider talking to a professional, who can help sort through your emotions.
3. Set healthy boundaries.
“Jealousy often reflects unhealthy boundaries,” Squyres says. (Uh…yikes.)
Yes, you want to feel close and securely attached to your partner, but they shouldn’t **actually** be your ride-or-die. Too-rigid boundaries that don’t allow for reasonable (emphasis on reasonable) closeness with other people outside your relationship is a problem, she explains.
Remember that open dialogue? “This can also be a good time to have an explicit discussion about appropriate boundaries, expectations regarding relationships with coworkers, friends, neighbours, and old flames, and what kind of regular checking in or contact you agree is reasonable,” Squyres notes.
Setting healthy relationship boundaries (think: lunches with your work husband is okay; texting after-hours is not) will help you avoid a future freakout.
4. Take a look in the mirror.
Real talk: Jealousy often stems from being too dependent on your relationship and not having a strong sense of your self-worth as an ~individual~, according to Orbuch. She recommends “taking an honest look at yourself, just you, apart from any relationship.”
Then comes the hard question: Do you depend on romantic relationships to determine how you’re feeling about yourself and your self-worth?
If the answer is “yes,” Orbuch encourages you “to spend time with friends and family who think you’re great and care about you” —
regardless of your relationship status.
Because they love you for you (and tbh, have probably been missing you a bit since you hit committed-couple status), they’ll be first in line to remind you exactly why you’re awesome.
5. Do your own thing.
Love makes you do crazy things, but unfortunately, so can your insecurities. (Remember that time you were three years’ deep in the Instagram of your S.O.’s college ex? Yeah, things like that.) “Feelings of inadequacy also lead to more jealousy,” explains Orbuch.
Before you can tackle that little green monster to the ground, it’s important to realize that your jealousy may have absolutely nothing to do with that cute coworker who commented on your partner’s post and everything to do with your own self-confidence (or lack thereof).
To build that up, love from friends and family can only go so far. You need true and total self-love — which starts by owning who you are.
“Branch out so your identity is not solely tied to being a partner,” Orbuch suggests. That can be anything from shaking up your usual routine with a new workout class to mastering a new skill, like learning another language. Whatever makes you feel like a bonafide badass, do it.
“The more your definition of self is tied to your own accomplishments and experiences apart from any romantic relationship, the less jealousy you will feel,” Orbuch says.
Plus, self-growth feels damn good.
6. Don’t play the comparison game.
“Sometimes, you can become jealous or worried that your partner might be attracted to others because you are comparing yourself to those around you,” explains Orbuch. “When you do this, you can always find something that you don’t like about yourself.”
Instead of having a self-bashing sesh, focus on your strengths, she says. Maybe you kill it in the generosity department, or can always make people laugh.
Take a sec to list five positive things you like about yourself (or more — lean into that self-love, girl). Orbuch even recommends carrying the list around with you, for those times you need a little reminder.
7. Remember: jealousy ≠ love.
Unless you’re role-playing as a couple on a daytime soap, getting jealous won’t show your partner how much you love them, according to both Squyres and Orbuch. And — surprise, surprise, it’s not a recipe for long-term happiness.
“Some couples can create a strange kind of stable instability where jealousy leads to fighting, which then leads to making up,” Squyres explains. “This is an exhausting and destructive pattern.” (I’m already tired just thinking about it.)
On the flipside, Orbuch says, “If you try to make your partner jealous because you want to see how much they love you, it can backfire.” So, like…don’t do that.
Instead, when jealousy starts to creep up, think back to specific moments when you felt loved by your S.O. That will help you remind what love is and — just as important — what it isn’t.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
Image credit: iStock