By Jemma Joel – Private Therapy Clinic Psychology Writer
The most important step in overcoming jealousy is to take action.
Jealousy is a painful and poisonous emotion which refers to undesirable thoughts and feelings of anxiety, inadequacy and insecurity. It is activated by threats to a relationship and motivates behaviour that counters the threat. As humans, we have specially designed cognitive mechanisms which have evolved and aim at solving adaptive problems i.e. forming a romantic, sexual relationship with another person and specifically, protecting our partners from potential rivals before jealousy begins to occur.
Although the same feelings of hurt are experienced, both sexes encounter jealousy in different ways. Evolutionary psychologists believe that over the years, evolution has shaped the differences in behaviour which is exhibited today by men and women. Therefore, men are more likely to become jealous over sexual infidelity, whereas women become jealous over emotional infidelity.
Whether you are a male or female reading this – by identifying the signs of your own personal romantic jealousy and understanding which feelings are normal and abnormal – you can begin to overcome jealousy. If anything, it can be a trigger for increasing your self-awareness and having a greater understanding of both your partner and your relationship.
Now, think back to the first time you realised that you had intimate feelings for your partner. How did you feel? What made you want to share your life with them?
Think forward to the present and consider the most painful thoughts and feelings that are associated with your jealousy. What is the main factor of you feeling like this?
It is important to note the connection between the primary components of your jealousy and what attracted you to your partner, as it is a reminder that you didn’t just happen to be in this relationship – you chose to be.
You now need to determine what is at the heart of these feelings. It may be because you have a fear of loss, shame or rejection. Either way, once you’ve identified the focus of your jealousy, you can then determine why it is making you respond the way you are.
Therapists use a technique called desensitisation, as this can help to overcome jealousy. You can try this at home to see if it makes you feel any better. Firstly, make a list of the things that are causing you to feel jealous and rank them according to the amount of jealousy they trigger in you. Secondly, try to relax and remain relaxed as you think about the items on your list. Then, from the bottom of your list to the top, imagine these items and confront the triggers that produce extreme jealousy in you – but remember to remain calm. By doing this, it can help you to overcome the thoughts and fears that have been pushed to the back of your mind and which you have been too afraid to confront.
Behaving in a non-jealous manner is likely to evoke a favourable response from your partner. Jealous behaviour i.e. fault-finding, interrogation and trust issues are more likely to arouse a negative reaction from your partner. Jealousy is a trait, an emotion and a frame of mind – therefore, getting rid of it is a gradual process which requires patience, persistence and self-reflection.