If your spouse smiles at the wait staff in a restaurant, flirtatiously banters with your accountant, or takes a phone call from a co-worker of the opposite sex, do you feel your pulse quicken and a sense of anger—even rage—taking over?
Going through the emotional devastation of an affair, you are probably still dealing with images that continue to run through your mind of your spouse with another person. And feeling that sense of hyper-vigilance means you have another strong emotion to work through: jealousy.
In this blog, you’ll learn tips to manage those jealous feelings so they don’t overwhelm you and jeopardize your and your spouse’s efforts to save your marriage.
Jealousy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Jealousy is a basic human emotion. It can rear up when you feel that a person you love may be “taken away” by someone else. It’s a response to what you feel is a threat to your relationship.
But, it can be a dangerous response—one with the potential to damage your relationship with your spouse, unless you understand why it exists and how to manage it.
Some forms of jealousy are actually good, as they do signal a threat. If you catch a woman batting her eyes at your husband, a flag goes up inside of you that says: “This person is trying to make a move on my spouse.” You love your husband and want to protect your relationship, so it’s not a bad thing that you feel the desire to protect it.
When you experience this type of jealousy, there are a number of ways you might respond to it. In the best cases, people reveal their jealous feelings to their spouse in a light, non-threatening way that shows they care. “Honey, I’m going to have to defend your honor, the way he was looking at you…” is an example, a response that expresses your jealous feelings. These show your partner you care about your relationship and you want to protect it without getting angry at your spouse for attracting someone else’s attention.
Jealousy felt and expressed in this way is what I call “good jealousy.” It is a rational, fun response to an emotional reaction you are having.
However, jealousy without cause is “bad jealousy.” This type is experienced in different ways: Either the jealous feelings you experience are more intense, blinding your ability to think clearly, you react to your emotions in a way that isn’t “light and non-threatening,” you can’t release the jealous thoughts or feelings, or some combination of these in the absence of provocation or suspicious behavior by your partner.
If in the above example, you instead react by yelling at your spouse, storming off, and then giving the silent treatment for a few days, the “ugly” reaction doesn’t fit the situation.
If your spouse has had an affair and you’re confronted with a situation in which your jealous feelings are justified, these feelings can (and usually do) cause problems in your marriage and your efforts to rebuild after the affair.
There are healthier ways you can process jealousy, before it develops into “bad jealousy.” Here are a few tips on how to better manage your response:
Tip #1: Physically Manage Your Jealousy Response
When you experience jealousy that feels like it’s about to bubble up and explode, first thing to do is to stop, take a deep breath, stand up or sit up straight, and get control of yourself.
You need to do this whether or not your jealousy is justified. Remember, acting out your feelings in an aggressive way will only cause more problems in your marriage.
Before the feelings become intense, you need to make a conscious choice not to act on those feelings in an unmanaged, inappropriate way.
Tip #2: Look Within For Why You Had a Jealous Response
When you feel jealous the tendency is to look at what the other person did to “make you” experience jealousy.
But no one “makes you” feel, think, or behave in any way. You are the one who has the jealous feelings—they were born inside of you. Redirect your attention: look inside yourself and identify how you are hurting.
As the person experiencing the jealousy it is your job to identify your hurt feelings and start up a conversation with your spouse that expresses what you are feeling.
Tip #3: Communicate Your Feelings to Your Spouse
If you experience bad jealousy, instead of blowing up into a jealous rage, you need to talk about your experience of hurt feelings with your spouse. If your spouse’s behavior was questionable to you, include specific facts about this as you express your feelings and the response you had.
Your spouse is more likely to respond in a caring manner to your pain if you don’t blame or accuse your spouse of cheating or threatening to cheat, but instead give your perspective. This helps your efforts to save your marriage, as you and your spouse find ways to overcome this problem—together, as a couple.
I would like to hear from you about your experiences with jealousy …
What triggers your jealousy response?
Have you ever reacted in a way that made you feel bad later?
How do you manage your feelings of jealousy?
Has your marriage suffered as a result of jealousy?
Please share your story on this topic by leaving a comment below.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,