"My husband is jealous about everything I do, how do I know when its toxic?"

Husband upset with his wife.
Husband upset with his wife.
Rowan Jordan/ Getty images

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. 

ADDRESSING JEALOUSY 

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. 

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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.