Have you ever watched your spouse flirting with someone else and felt your stomach tighten, your jaws clench, and your eyes narrow in furious rage?
You recognize that you’re experiencing that so called “green-eyed” monster – and may fear it’ll get the best of you. In fact, you may find yourself lashing out at your spouse, driving him or her away with your jealous outbursts.
In today’s blog, discover the two sides of jealousy, how one side can be good for a marriage – and how to harness that good side. Keep reading…
How Jealousy Fits in Your Marriage
The thought that others find your spouse attractive may make you feel like you want to hold on tighter than ever to your spouse. Or perhaps you have been through the emotional devastation of an affair, and the images that continue to run through your mind of your spouse with another person make you sick to your stomach.
If you have experienced any of these situations (or countless others like them) you have felt one of the most potentially volatile emotions that a person in an intimate relationship faces: jealousy.
That large, ugly monster that has been the downfall of so many. Why is that?
Simply, it is one of the most fundamental human emotions we have. But left unchecked, it is one that has the potential to damage your relationship unless you understand why it exists and how to handle it.
When you see someone eye your spouse, you detect a threat to your relationship. The possibility exists that this other person could come in and try to lead your spouse astray. As a result, a warning signal went off inside you – manifested as jealous feelings.
Generally, the jealousy you experience is usually relatively low level. You feel a moment of jealousy, a desire to protect your marriage, then the feeling passes and you move on with your life.
In themselves, low-level jealous feelings of this nature are not a bad thing. They are simply a signal to you of how much you value your relationship and want to keep it intact. If you don’t have a jealous response, it does not mean that you don’t value your relationship – you just value your relationship from a different perspective.
When jealousy like this comes up, there are any 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. These would be appropriate responses to and expressions of your jealous feelings, showing your partner you care about your relationship and you want to protect it without coming off as threatening or intimidating in any way.
Jealousy felt and expressed in this way is “good jealousy.” It is a warm, rational, fun response to an emotional reaction you have, a sign you want to protect your marriage and, in general, an excellent sign for your marriage.
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Stronger jealousy without cause is “bad jealousy.” It’s experienced in different ways: either the jealous feelings you experience are more intense, 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.
When I refer to “bad jealousy,” it takes into account that there are no violations, threatened violations, partial violations, or other provocative or suspicious behavior by your partner. Reactions to these behaviors are in a different class of feelings.
An inappropriate response could be you withdraw, get quiet, and sulk. Or you may become explosive and angry without any explanation. In fact, there are countless ways these unresolved feelings might be reflected in your behavior.
This is one way good jealousy can become bad jealousy. The intensity of the feelings is too high and you have a hard time letting go of them.
There are healthier ways you can process your jealous feelings before they develop into “bad jealousy.” Here are a few tips on how to do that.
3 Tips for Managing Jealous Feelings
Tip #1: Put Jealousy on Pause
The very first thing to do when you experience jealousy that you are tempted to fuel into a raging fire is to stop, take a deep breath, stand up or sit up straight, and become your most adult, controlled self.
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.
You have a choice about how you act. When you experience jealousy, before the feelings become intense, you need to make a choice not to act on those feelings in an aggressive or otherwise inappropriate way.
Tip #2: Identify the Crossed Boundary
When you feel jealous the tendency is to look at what the other person did to “make you” experience jealousy.
However, this is a fundamentally flawed way to understand your emotional responses. Keep in mind that no one can “make” you feel, think, or behave in any way. You are the one who has the jealous feelings – no one can “make” you have them.
Instead, focus on looking inside yourself and identify how you are hurting. If you want any chance of having your hurt feelings taken care of, you need to talk to your spouse about how he or she has hurt your feelings.
Tip #3: Talk about Your Jealous Feelings
The more you communicate with your spouse the better. 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 a boundary was crossed, you can include that as factual information in describing your pain. You should treat your spouse as your best friend and not as your enemy. Remember, you want your spouse to feel sorry for the emotional hurt you experienced and to work with you to find ways you can overcome this problem together as a couple.
My best to you as you manage jealous feelings – keeping them on the “good” side.
Have you experienced “bad” jealousy? What was the result?
What triggered your jealousy?
Has your spouse responded well when you tried “good” jealousy?
Please share your ideas and personal experiences on this topic with other members of the community.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,