Jealousy: How to embrace it and talk about it
Dr. Ari Kiev, a New York psychiatrist, who has written on the subject of jealousy, calls it “the most painful” of human emotions. He claims that jealousy often strikes in the early stages of a relationship when the couple have not developed a sufficiently strong “sense of self” and are prone to doubts and suspicions. It then invariable becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
Jealousy brings out the worst in people and most of us don’t want to admit we can be jealous and are ashamed of feeling this secret emotion. Yet, jealousy is a common and normal feeling. When we learn to accept our feelings of jealousy then we have a better chance of starting to think about it differently and start to talk to our partners effectively.
The definition of jealousy is often connected to envy and by distinguishing between the two, we can have a better understanding of the origin of this feeling. Envy is a two- person situation whereas jealousy is a three-person scenario. Envy is a reaction to lacking something. Jealousy is a reaction to the threat of losing something or someone.
Knowing whether your jealousy is well founded can be a confusing process. A client of mine was talking about “her jealousy” telling me her husband thinks she is behaving in an unreasonable and irrational manner when he looks at other women in front of her. She admits she reacts badly when he does this and can’t seem to communicate this without her husband turning it around to become about her behaviour. This is when the dynamic becomes confused between them.
When this happens, her behaviour becomes the focus of the issue and her husband’s behaviour is forgotten and the conversation is at a stalemate. Until the dynamic between them shifts, this is the only conversation they can have.
When my client was able to work through her feelings more clearly, she was able to begin a dialogue with her husband to own her jealousy but also pointing out that his behaviour was reinforcing this feeling. She explained that she felt it was as if she couldn’t hold his attention and that hurt her. The blame was taken out of the conversation and he was able to see that his behaviour was making it worse. It’s important to say, this shift in the conversation took some time, but they stuck at it until they were able to see the situation less defensively and from each other’s point of view.
So how can couples best deal with jealous thoughts?
Start to cultivate the connection to jealous feelings. Your body will alert you. It might be a tightness in your chest or stomach. Listen to it and slowly the feelings will emerge. Once you are clear what the feeling is try not to judge yourself, accept it. This will allow you to stay with it and not get caught up in any negative thought patterns: “she’s cheating on me”, “I’m not enough for him”. etc. Once you feel more comfortable with the feeling you can begin to enquire what is triggering it? With this information, you can begin a conversation with your partner. Be patient, it might take a while!
Recognising that our partner needs more than us is key. We can’t fulfil every aspect of our partner’s need just as they can’t ours. Logically, we understand this but our wounds of not being enough often triggers us into jealousy and we end up condemning ourselves and then the relationship.
We are all attracted to other people besides our partners, physically, spiritually and emotionally. The more we’re able to normalise this reality the better. When we start to develop a stronger sense of who we are, we begin to live and feel comfortable with the parts of ourselves that ‘are not’ and we become more.
Be patient and kind with yourself during this process, it’s not easy. Staying with the discomfort is part of the process of getting there. Have faith.