Jealousy is an unusual emotion in that it is an emotion rooted in other emotions. Often, the root of jealousy lies in insecurity, the idea that your relationship with your partner is not stable; it can also be rooted in such things as fear of loss, fear of being replaced, and so on.
For that reason, effective resolution of jealousy relies on tracking down the root of the jealousy, and identifying the emotional responses the jealousy is rooted in. This is arguably the most important step to resolving issues of jealousy and insecurity, and is one of the most difficult, because it relies on an unflinching, completely honest self-assessment and a willingness to explore and understand unpleasant, uncomfortable emotions.
First, identify the things that trigger a feeling of jealousy or insecurity. Keep in mind that the triggers which lead to a jealous emotional response are not the same thing as the cause of the jealous response! The triggers are the events or situations which bring up a feeling of jealousy; the cause is buried deeper, in other emotions.
Fill in the blank: “I do not like my partner to do X because if my partner does X,
then ___.” Be honest! Identify the fears or doubts that the behavior which triggers the feelings of jealousy or insecurity may cause. What’s the worst-case sce- nario? What bad things do you believe may happen if your partner does whatever it is that causes the jealous response? (This may take some time. It might be helpful to write down your response; if you feel conflicted or a mix of emotions, write down each one, and try to pin down exactly what you feel when your partner does whatever triggers a jealous response.) Often, simply putting a name to your fears, however unfounded you know them to be rationally, goes a long way toward reducing them.
Further down the rabbit hole: Why do you think these things may happen? Are those fears valid? How does your partner feel about these things? Talk to your partner about what you believe may happen if your partner does whatever it is that triggers the inse- curities or jealousies.
- Fears, jealousies, insecurities, and similar emotions will seek to justify themselves and convince you that they are valid; and the emotional reality they create will color and influence your worldview. They always feel valid, even when they’re not. Don’t as- sume that your feelings always tell the truth. Look at them critically, in the light of day.
When you examine the things you think may happen if your partner does whatever triggers your jealousy, most often what you find is that the things you’re afraid of aren’t actually true. Knowing that intellectually does not make the feelings go away, but it does give you information about what the feelings are rooted in.
Now, not all jealousies are irrational, and not all jealousies are unfounded. If your partner has a his- tory of cheating on you or betraying your confidence, for example, then it is perfectly reasonable and appropriate to feel that your partner might not be honest with you, or might not do what he or she says. Useful jealousy—jealousy that is a valid warning sign of a problem in a relationship—is a very different animal from irrational jealousy.
It’s not always easy to tell them apart, though, because emotional responses seek to justify them- selves, and can influence the way you perceive the world. It’s possible to find evidence to support almost any feeling, if you look hard enough.