PHOTO: Jamie Street
Text: Alejandra Misiolek
Jealousy is defined as a feeling of unhappiness and anger caused by a belief that a loved one might be unfaithful .
Most people associate this feeling with something rather negative that they would prefer to avoid. Is it really such a negative feeling? What role does it play? Should we try to avoid it?
Jealousy is a complex emotion that appears as a reaction to a threat to a relationship that we value, regardless of whether it is real or imagined. Although it is a painful feeling, as all emotions, it actually plays a role and shouldn´t be suppressed. Similarly to what we should do with all our emotions, we could recognize it, acknowledge it and think about it instead of impulsively acting on it. What does this emotion actually tell me about me and my relationship? Could it be a signal of something I am detecting or is it my excessive insecurity that triggers it? From a social point of view, jealousy can be seen as a necessary emotion, because it preserves social bonds and motivates people to engage in behaviors that maintain important relationships.
Jealousy is universal, we all have felt it at some point in life. However, in excess I can become problematic. Research shows that people who are more jealous are the ones whose self-esteem is lower, who suffer from abandonment issues and who are highly neurotic. It can become a problem because it can cause suffering to the person who feels it and to their partner. It can also be a problem if we decide to act on it by controlling our partner or obsessively monitoring their mobile or their whereabouts. A frequent consequence of such damaging behaviors is that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We can cause what we most fear: we can be abandoned because our behavior becomes overwhelming.
How to deal with jealousy?
Even though it may feel taboo and counterintuitive, simply acknowledging jealousy’s presence is the best solution. Both for ourselves and with our partner. Exploring the emotions that underpin jealousy can inspire self-reflection that may help to develop internal coping skills. Sharing these feelings with our partner can initiate productive conversations about the relationship and the things that might missing and how and help to repair the bond.
We can not expect from ourselves to cure the jealousy. According to the paradox of change, it is by acknowledging and accepting our feelings that we can actually start changing them. If we realize that the jealousy is triggered by our insecurities, we can use it as an opportunity to have a closer look at it and be a good motivation to do some personal work instead of seeking reassurance in our partner. Asking for professional help of a psychotherapist specialized in treating the problems of relationship can be a very enriching solution.
To conclude, not only can´t we avoid this feeling but rather we shouldn´t. We could rather treat it as an indicator that something is going on that needs to be addressed. Either a real problem in the relationship or an insecurity that might benefit form personal work or psychotherapy.