I love my husband very much. We’ve been married for three years. We’re both highly invested in our careers but we also spend a lot of time together. My biggest problem with him is that I find myself isolated from my friends. He wants to control my every move. When we’re apart he wants to know who I’m with and why.
I have to account for every phone call and message I get. His jealousy has become so bad I feel I have no life of my own anymore. How do I cope with my jealous husband? And at what point is jealousy toxic? - Overwhelmed
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There’s no reason to believe that jealous feelings improve with time or are resolved by getting married.Jealousy isn’t an emotion that can be banished with wishful thinking. It goes right to the core of the self and has deep roots. It takes awareness and effort to overcome these feelings.
HEALTHY VS UNHEALTHY JEALOUSY
Healthy jealousy can come from sincere commitment. It guards the heart of a marriage because it:
- Shows your commitment to the relationship
- Protects your marriage by safeguarding the relationship against threatening behavior
- Makes you accountable through honest communication
- Helps you confront major threats to your marriage and head them off before they become serious problems. Unhealthy jealousy, on the other hand, stems from comparing yourself to others and feeling inadequate, unimportant, inferior and pitiful.
Some spouses have experienced a lot of loss in life, whether through divorce, death or abandonment in childhood, and they may bring unresolved issues into the marriage in the form of jealousy.
It’s generally rooted in worry about not being truly loved and is characterised by:
- Excessively questioning your spouse’s behaviour and motives
- Constantly demanding an account of where your spouse has been
- Texting your spouse non-stop when you’re apart
- Reading emails and texts expecting to discover infidelity or a lie
- Displaying unusual insecurity and fear
- Being paranoid about what your spouse is doing or feeling
- Making unfounded accusations
- Stalking your spouse to confirm their whereabouts
- Infringing on your spouse’s freedom or prohibiting them from seeing friends or family.
If your marriage is experiencing jealousy issues, it’s important to address them before they get out of hand. Here are a few healthy suggestions.
Realise that some jealousy is normal
There will be people and situations that threaten the security of your marriage. Whether it’s a flirtatious co-worker or a job that requires a lot of travel, it’s normal to experience a little bit of jealousy. The important thing is that you take time to talk about your concerns and agree on certain boundaries that will protect your marriage and your hearts. For example, you both may agree that limiting contact with a flirtatious co-worker is important for the health of the marriage. Or you may decide that talking at bedtime while one spouse is on the road may alleviate concerns. The key is that you discuss the issues calmly and come up with solutions together.
Get to the root of the jealousy
When one spouse is feeling jealous on a consistent basis, it is important to find out why that’s happening. For instance, are they feeling insecure because you don’t spend much time together as a couple? Or does the marriage have trust issues due to previous infidelity? Rather than get defensive or offended by jealousy, ask questions. Try to understand where the jealousy comes from and what can be done to alleviate it.
Create an atmosphere of trust
This process begins with both spouses being trustworthy. In other words, you’re faithful, committed and honest. Trustworthy people don’t lie about how they spend their time. They also don’t cheat on their spouses. If you both guard against these pitfalls, the trust in the relationship will grow and crowd out jealousy.
Develop a healthy attachment
Find ways to spend time together and bond. A marriage is more than just living together and sharing a bed. It involves showing affection, spending time together and building an attachment to each other. Any threats to your attachment should be a cause for concern. Jealousy is appropriate when it’s a signal that the marriage is at risk.
Recognise when jealousy is abusive
Jealousy in response to a real threat to the relationship is normal. But if one partner is jealous for no reason, this could be a red flag – especially if the jealousy includes extreme anger, unrealistic expectations and unfounded accusations. What’s more, this type of jealousy is not a one-time thing – it’s a pattern of behaviour that repeats itself over and over. In this case, it may be time to reassess your relationship. You have to keep yourself safe. Speak to someone about it and have a plan in place with others in your life if you decide to leave.