What to do about jealousy
How to Not Be Jealous: 12 Tips and TricksShare on Pinterest
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Jealousy has a bad reputation. It’s not uncommon to hear well-meaning people say things like, “Don’t be jealous” or “Jealousy destroys relationships.” But what makes this emotion so bad?
While it’s often linked to romantic relationships, jealousy can come up whenever you’re worried about losing anything or anyone important to you. This is different from envy, which involves wanting something that belongs to someone else.
Jealousy can lead to feelings of anger, resentment, or sadness. But it can often tell you a thing or two about yourself and your needs.
Here’s a look at some ways to cope with jealousy and examine what’s at the root of your feelings.
“If you get that jealous twinge,” says Sarah Swenson, LMHC, “ask yourself what lies at the root of it. Then take steps to change what you don’t like in order to get what you want.”
Examining your jealous feelings can give you insight on where they come from:
- Your sister’s new relationship causes jealousy because you haven’t had much luck dating and worry you’ll never find the right person.
- Your coworker’s promotion makes you feel jealous because you believe you aren’t good enough at your job to get a promotion yourself.
- When your partner starts spending a lot of time with a new friend, you feel jealous because that was the first sign you noticed when a previous partner cheated.
Whether your jealousy stems from insecurity, fear, or past relationship patterns, knowing more about the causes can help you figure out how to confront it.
Maybe you have an open conversation with your supervisor about getting on track for promotion, resolve to try a different approach to dating, or talk to your partner about your feelings.
If your partner’s actions (or someone else’s actions toward your partner) trigger jealous feelings, bring this up with your partner as soon as possible.
Broach the topic of jealousy when you can both dedicate some time to a productive conversation. Whenever possible, try to avoid getting into a serious topic right before bed or when you’re about to head out the door.
Your partner may not have noticed the behavior, or they may not have realized how you felt about it. Use the opportunity to talk over any relationship boundaries you might want to revisit, or discuss ways to keep your relationship strong.
If you trust your partner but have doubts because of past relationship experiences, try finding a few ways you both can help improve the situation.
If you feel nervous about mentioning jealous feelings, try to remember they’re totally normal. Your partner might even have had some jealous feelings of their own at some point.
Jealousy can sometimes give you a slightly warped sense of reality. You might wonder if that nonverbal flirting you swear you saw actually happened.
Sometimes, voicing these concerns to a third party can make the situation less frightening and help you gain some perspective.
Jealousy can be a complex, strong emotion, and you might not feel very good when you’re dealing with it. But instead of thinking of it as something negative, try looking at it as a helpful source of information.
Jealousy, according to Swenson, tells you there’s a difference between what you have and what you want.
She adds that unchecked jealousy can turn into self-blame and create a cycle that keeps you feeling deprived. But you may be able to manage it by identifying it as helpful information that you can use to create circumstances in which your needs are met.
Jealousy sometimes develops in response to a partial picture. In other words, you might be comparing yourself and your own achievements and attributes to an idealized or incomplete view of someone else.
People typically display their best selves to the world, so it’s not always easy to tell what’s really happening in someone else’s life or relationship. Then there’s the whole issue of social media, which magnifies this concept.
But you never truly know what someone’s going through, especially when you’re just looking at social media.
Your college friend with the Facebook photos of her and her husband out in a meadow, looking so carefree and happy? For all you know, they argued all the way out there and they’re sweating bullets under all that matching plaid.
A little gratitude can go a long way. It can not only reduce feelings of jealousy, but also relieve stress.
You might not have everything you want. Most of us don’t. But you probably have at least some of what you want. Maybe you even have some good things in your life you didn’t expect.
This can help whether you’re eyeing your friend’s fancy new bike or wishing your partner didn’t spend quite so much time with friends. Remind yourself of your sturdy, reliable bike that gets you where you need to go. Consider the benefits of having a partner who appreciates the value of friendship.
Even appreciating positive things in your life that don’t relate to jealousy can help you realize that, while your life may not be perfect (but whose life is?), you’ve still got some good things going for you.
Coping with jealousy as it comes up won’t help you work through underlying causes. But it can help to keep the distress at bay until you can deal with the underlying issues.
Turning your attention away from jealousy can also help keep you from acting on your feelings (and doing something that could harm a relationship or friendship).
Take a break
Try these strategies to distract yourself from jealous thoughts before they become overwhelming:
- Write down what you feel.
- Take a walk.
- Give yourself space by leaving the situation.
- Take 10 minutes to do something calming.
Jealousy that persists and causes distress can sometimes relate to anxiety or self-esteem issues, explains Vicki Botnick, LMFT. “Learning how to deal with either issue can automatically help soothe jealousy.”
One way to approach low self-esteem involves identifying personal values, such as compassion, communication, or honesty. This helps, according to Botnick, because it lets you check whether you’re upholding these values in your daily life.
It also gives you a chance to notice your positive traits and review what’s important to you. This can increase your sense of self-respect and may help decrease distressing feelings of inferiority or competitiveness.
Anxiety can have a range of symptoms that might be more difficult to address on your own. Coping techniques can help (find some tips here), but therapy can also be a good option.
Botnick also suggests trying an anxiety workbook like The Mindful Way Workbook.
It uses principles of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to help you to:
- increase acceptance around anxious feelings so they don’t overwhelm you
- recognize unwanted or distressing thoughts so you can challenge and replace them
When jealousy prompts you to compare yourself to others, your self-worth can end up taking a hit. Your life might be pretty enviable to someone else, after all. But jealousy can make you feel like nothing you have is good enough.
Research exploring a possible link between jealousy and self-esteem found evidence to suggest jealousy can develop when you face a threat to your self-esteem.
To combat low self-esteem:
- Remind yourself of things you do well.
- Practice self-compassion (in other words, treat yourself the way you would a close friend).
- Practice daily affirmations or exchange them with your partner.
- Remind yourself of the things you value in your partner and relationship.
- Make time to do things you enjoy.
Mindfulness techniques help you pay attention to your thoughts and feelings as they come up without judging or criticizing them. Increasing your awareness around jealousy can help you notice any patterns it follows, including things that happen before you feel jealous.
Mindfulness can also help you feel more comfortable with jealousy. For example, it can help you notice and accept your jealous feelings for what they are — part of your emotional experience — and move on.
Not judging the jealousy, or yourself for feeling it, can help keep it from affecting you negatively.
If you’ve experienced jealousy before, you probably already know that jealousy fades with time. It might feel less intense after you deal with your feelings, of course, but it can also lessen once whatever you felt jealous about is over.
According to research that looked at the experience of jealousy, people are generally more likely to feel jealous right before something happens, rather than after.
As time passes, you’re also less likely to feel the need to compare yourself or your circumstances to someone else. But the positive feelings you have stay.
So, while you might feel jealous as your best friend’s wedding date approaches, on the day after the wedding you might feel less jealous and more just happy for your friend.
If you’re having trouble coping with jealous thoughts on your own, talking to a therapist can help.
It’s not always easy to talk about jealousy. You might feel even more uncomfortable sharing these thoughts with someone you don’t know. But a good therapist will meet you with kindness and compassion.
Plus, they know better than anyone that jealousy is a normal emotion that everyone feels at some point.
Botnick shares a few signs that suggest talking to a therapist could be helpful:
- Jealousy leads to obsessive or fixated thoughts.
- You notice compulsive behaviors.
- Jealous thoughts become uncontrollable or intrusive.
- You have violent thoughts or urges.
- Jealous feelings trigger problematic behaviors, like following your partner or checking up on them constantly.
- Jealousy affects your day-to-day life, prevents you from doing things you want to do, or causes other distress.
“If you constantly need to check out your social media feed, your partner’s phone, or what the people in line at Starbucks are wearing, then you can no longer be present in your own life, and that’s a problem,” Botnick concludes.
Jealousy can help you focus on who (and what) you care about. It doesn’t have to cause problems for you or your relationships. It can even help relationships become stronger in some cases. It all comes down to how you use it.
Online therapy options
Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.
How to Manage Your Jealousy
Jealousy isn’t necessarily an unhealthy emotion, but there are ways to handle your jealousy more constructively.
If you tend to get jealous in romantic relationships, you’re not alone. Jealousy is a very natural emotion that many people experience at some point.
Jealous tendencies can pop up in other situations, too. For example, a 2019 study found that women are more prone than men to get jealous over their employers’ physical attractiveness.
Men, on the other hand, are more prone to feel jealous over their employers’ physical dominance. Both men and women experience jealousy when their employers appear more socially successful.
Research suggests that jealousy is not inherently a bad thing. A 2021 study found, for instance, that friendship jealousy (when a person is threatened by their friend’s new romantic relationship or friend) can help to protect and maintain friendships.
Wherever your jealousy stems from or whom you feel it toward, healing is possible. How do you control jealousy? There are several ways, and some are listed below.
Whether you have jealous tendencies in romantic relationships, friendships, or other situations, here are some tips on how to handle your jealousy in a healthy way.
“Be real with ourselves about what our insecurities are, where they come from, what we do to keep them alive, and what we could potentially start doing to transform them into secure bases of existence,” recommends clinical psychologist Dr. Dena DiNardo, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
To do this, you can journal, meditate, or speak with a therapist. A mental health professional can help you identify the root of your jealousy and how to overcome it.
Consider speaking with your partner about your experience. Opening up about your feelings of jealousy can give them the opportunity to understand where you’re coming from and adjust their behaviors to help you feel more secure within your relationship.
To realize that you’re not alone, DiNardo recommends asking other people about what jealousy is like for them and how they cope with it. “This offsets the shame associated with feeling like ‘there’s something wrong with us for feeling this way,’” she says.
Jealousy has a bad reputation, but it’s not always a negative feeling. DiNardo says to try to stop judging jealousy as a “bad” or “wrong” way to feel because it’s neither.
Jealousy sends us a message about the unhealed parts of ourselves, she adds. “The defensive behaviors we exhibit to protect us from feeling jealous are usually what feel bad or wrong. But the feeling itself is actually a useful tool for us to get to know ourselves better.
“Allow yourself the space to be a human, which often means feeling things we don’t want to feel and having thoughts we don’t want to have,” she says. “While it’s a universal experience, the context and nuance is unique for each of us. Get to know your jealousy roots and stories. Try to do it with compassionate curiosity instead of judgment.”
Jealousy almost always has a deeper-rooted emotion behind it. “It can be a manifestation of fear: that we’re not enough, attractive, or interesting, that we won’t be chosen, that other people or things are more important to someone than we are,” says DiNardo.
She lists some other potential sources of jealousy:
- a partner’s ongoing relationships with their exes
- not trusting that your partner is committed to your relationship
- wishing you had what someone else has (e.g., career, friends, relationships)
- a learned emotional pattern from observing or being raised in an environment heavy with jealousy
- conscious or unconscious attachments to competition
- a projection of how we genuinely feel or think about ourselves
- a lack of security in the relationship we have with ourselves
- losing one or both parents (from divorce, death, or physical, psychological, or emotional abandonment)
While jealousy is often something internal that we need to work on, that’s not always the case. “Sometimes people want us to be jealous of them or something they have or do because it gives them a false sense of elevation about their own lives. This is something others may or may not be conscious of,” DiNardo adds.
Either way, learning more about yourself can help you better understand where your feelings of jealousy come from and how, based on your personal needs, you can cope with them.
To start, consider these resources:
- Signs of Jealousy
- How Insecurity Leads to Envy, Jealousy, and Shame
If you’re wondering how to minimize feelings of jealousy in a relationship, friendship, or a colleague, there are many ways to find relief and overcome it, such as:
- identify your insecurities
- talk with your partner about your feelings
- ask others how they experience and cope with jealousy
- let go of judgement
- practice grounding, tapping, and other self-led exercises
- learn more about jealousy, its triggers, and how to heal
If your jealous tendencies adversely impact your relationships, career, or life, consider speaking with a therapist. Learning how to manage jealousy in a healthy way may take time and effort, but it’s possible and it’s never too late.
How to deal with jealousy: advice from a psychologist in the capital
Jealousy is one of the most common reasons women turn to psychologists. Many women tend to experience a constant painful state of inner fear, fear of losing an object that is significant to them. According to experts, to one degree or another, jealousy is present in everyone. We can be jealous of friends, colleagues, family members, it all depends on the degree of emotional closeness. What is jealousy and where does it come from, says Nina Kizrina, a psychologist at the Hope branch of the Crisis Center for Women and Children.
Bring peace to the family
32-year-old Tatyana turned to the Crisis Center for Women and Children. She has been married to Mikhail for 12 years, her husband holds a managerial position and spends a lot of time at work.
Until June 2020, the woman had no idea that her husband could cheat on her. But after the long-term and happy marriage of her best friend collapsed before our eyes due to infidelity, Tatyana was seriously worried. In just a few weeks, she worked herself up so that she could not close her eyes. It began to seem to the woman that Mikhail had been deceiving her for a long time. Thus began endless surveillance of her husband, and over time this led to frequent conflicts in the family, which had not happened before. Tatyana realized that unreasonable jealousy would not lead to good, and turned to professional psychologists for help.
“The psychologist has developed a plan for individual interviews. Meetings with Tatyana were held once or twice a week for three months. In the process of work, it was possible to restore the emotional background, remove obsessive and disturbing thoughts, harmonize the relationship between the spouses and return peace to the family, ”says the specialist .
What is jealousy like
Jealousy is a bright, negative, emotional sense of possessiveness, reinforced by egoism, the desire to completely control another person, which is usually expressed in distrust, suspicion, in painful doubts about loyalty and love.
Psychologists distinguish three types of jealousy: rational, irrational, delusional jealousy.
- Rational jealousy arises when there is really a real threat to lose the object of love.
- Irrational jealousy is not connected with reality and is based mainly on imagination and fantasy. It occurs in people with a vivid imagination who suffer from inferiority complexes, who have suffered mental trauma in childhood.
- Delusions of jealousy - inadequate, unreasonable jealousy, reaching the point of mental pathology. Basically, this type of jealousy occurs in people with mental disorders (schizophrenia, paranoid disorder, alcoholism, drug addiction).
How jealousy is born
The feeling of jealousy is formed in the period from one to three years. In the family, the child learns how to interact with each other, what should be the relationship of parents. The kid sees how mom and dad communicate, take care of each other, solve problems.
As a rule, a jealous woman in most cases chooses a man for her husband who will stimulate this feeling. The origins of the causes of jealousy come from parent-child relationships - lack of love in childhood, physical or sexual abuse, genetic predisposition, childhood psychological trauma. Growing up, a jealous woman on an unconscious level begins to play her scenario from childhood - the psychological trauma of rejection, fearing its repetition. Later, this behavior acts as a form of betrayal prevention.
« Jealousy may be caused by competition between siblings who claim special status from their parents; identification with the deceived parent when the other parent is cheating; dysfunctional relationships in the parental family - alcoholism, physical abuse, infidelity of the parent of the opposite sex , ”says the specialist.
Causes of jealousy in older age - self-doubt, low self-esteem in sexual terms, the presence of an inferiority complex, uselessness, underestimation of one's own abilities and capabilities. Also, the causes of jealousy can be emotional dependence, fear of losing an object of love or loneliness, an excessive sense of ownership, an unlimited right to possess another person.
One of the manifestations of jealousy is sadomasochism. The experiences of jealousy here are closely connected with self-torment, with manifestations of masochistic tendencies.
“ The jealous one gets a kind of pleasure from the torment experienced during constant surveillance, looking for evidence of a partner’s betrayal”, - Svetlana notes.
An important cause of jealousy is the neurotic need for control. If a jealous woman misses the opportunity to control her partner, then she begins to panic, jealousy increases significantly.
Another reason for jealousy is the partner's provocative behavior. In this case, the partner unconsciously provokes jealousy in order to get "proof of love", focusing on the formula "jealous means love." Therefore, such women always have a dramatic relationship with a partner, she constantly needs confirmation of love. This indicates a high degree of codependency.
“If there is silence at home, there are no manifestations from the husband, declarations of love, scandals and manifestations of jealousy, then she becomes unbearable - she needs an emotional shake-up, a discharge that she is used to receiving in a dysfunctional parental family,” says psychologist.
How to get rid of jealousy
- If you decide to fight this negative and destructive feeling, then always proceed from the idea that your partner is faithful to you. By continuing to think that he is cheating on you, you will never be able to cope with jealousy.
- Realize that the reason for your jealousy lies not in the actions of your partner, but in your own fears of the horrors that your imagination draws: betrayal, betrayal, loneliness.
- Having understood that the reason for your jealousy is fears and complexes, do not expect your partner to do something magical, from which jealousy will be removed as if by hand. Will not take off. The only person who can pull you out of the swamp of jealousy before it completely destroys you completely is yourself.
- Replacement of fear. The best way to deal with fear is another fear. Stop being afraid that your loved one will cheat on you, start to fear that with your suspicions, scenes of jealousy and tantrums, you will finally destroy your relationship. When you are truly afraid of this, the feeling of jealousy will leave you forever.
If you find it difficult to cope with jealousy on your own, sign up for a consultation with professional psychologists. The specialists of "My Family Center" and "Crisis Center for Women and Children" will help you in such a difficult situation.
Press service of the Moscow Department of Labor and Social Protection
Why we are jealous and how to stop doing it
November 6, 2021
You can listen to the article. If you feel more comfortable, turn on the podcast:
Why people get jealous
You are insecure may feel insecure in relationships. They believe that they are not good enough to attract a partner and keep his interest over time.
You need to control everything
One partner worries about his place in the other's world. Perhaps, even in childhood, a person experienced a disturbing experience and now thinks that he cannot be trusted, because at any moment he can be preferred to another.
Psychologist, systemic family psychotherapist of the Family Medical Center "Leib-Medic".
But this is not just anxiety. This is an attempt to control the actions of the other side. Fear of someone else's freedom and rebellion against it.
You are too strongly attached to a partner
Constant groundless jealousy may appear due to excessive attachment, when one cannot separate from the other and lives his life.
If you constantly interfere in the life of a companion, forbid meeting friends and spend time separately, the chances of destroying relationships are high. There is nothing wrong with a couple having common interests. But everyone should also have their own hobbies.
You project your own repressed desires onto your partner
Family psychotherapist Anastasia Popova notes that jealousy can arise due to the projection of one's own state and repressed sexual desires onto another person. Without admitting to ourselves, we want to go to the left, only now we attribute this to the satellite.
You have obsessive thinking
Jealousy can be the result of obsessive (obsessive) thinking. Psychologist Seth Meyers recalls 3 prime reasons why people get jealous / Psychology Today the case of a patient who was jealous of partners in all her relationships. She also had some signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. When her husband came home late, lingered, she could not put up with not knowing what and where he was doing. Therefore, I filled in the gaps and thought out myself. I took the facts out of my head, and then I was jealous and worried. She herself created disturbing thoughts and reasons for excitement when faced with the most terrible circumstance for this type of people: unknown .
Also, according to the expert, jealousy can be caused by a person's general paranoid state.
There is a real reason for jealousy
Perhaps the most logical reason: there really is a reasonable reason for jealousy. Maybe this is an unambiguous correspondence with another or another, not yet forgotten betrayal or irrefutable evidence of infidelity.
How to stop being jealous
Accept and examine your thoughts
Robert Leahy, PhD, Professor at Yale University, Past President of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy, the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, and the International Association for Cognitive Psychotherapy, recommends Jealousy is a killer: How to break free from your jealousy / Psychology Today to stop at the height of jealousy breathe out and pay attention to your thoughts.
Do they reflect the reality? If you think that a partner is interested in someone other than you, this does not mean that they are. You must understand that thoughts and reality are different things.
Don't give in to feelings of jealousy
Anger and anxiety can be intensified if you begin to obsess over them. You need to accept your emotions and let them be. You don't have to "get rid of the feelings," but if you approach observing your experiences consciously, it will help to ease them.
Understand that uncertainty is part of any relationship
We are looking for certainty: "I need to know that she / he is not interested in you" or "I want to know that we will not part and be together." Dr. Leahy writes that some are even ready to end the relationship before they think the other does.
Uncertainty is part of life. This is something we cannot do anything about.
You cannot know for sure whether your partner will leave you or not. But with your accusations and reproaches, you can create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Understand your conjectures
Jealousy can be fueled by unrealistic beliefs: past relationships of a loved one threaten your union, you have nothing to offer a partner, this relationship will repeat a bad experience with another or another. Often this is nothing more than speculation that has nothing to do with reality.
Find effective ways to build relationships
“Instead of relying on jealousy, find another way to make the union safer,” advises Robert Leahy. For example, pay attention when your partner does something good, praise each other, refrain from criticism and sarcasm, or make a list of simple and pleasant things that would please each of you.
Take care of yourself
We must not forget about our development. Find a hobby, play a sport, or take a yoga class. Do not deprive yourself and your beloved of freedom and personal space.
Show gratitude instead of jealousy
To a certain extent, jealousy is normal in a relationship. But only as long as it strengthens them, and does not destroy them.
It is useful to remember that besides me, a wonderful miracle, my partner has many other people in his life who can take my place. And that he or she chooses and prefers me over someone else.
A good alternative to jealousy is gratitude for choosing you, for being together. You can’t save a relationship with jealousy, but with gratitude it can work out.
Build up trust
Psychologist, conflictologist, head of the Center for Settlement of Social Conflicts.
Jealousy is usually "cured" by trust. If you do not trust your partner, be sure to talk to him about it.
He may not even guess about your feelings and not know that his behavior gives rise to them.
Accept the situation and reconsider the relationship
This applies precisely to those cases in which there are justified reasons to doubt the fidelity of a loved one.