Resources for working with jealousy
November 5, 2017 2:28 AM   Subscribe

I experience a significant amount of jealousy in relationships and would like to work on this to make things easier for myself and my partner. I live in a place where it is hard to find a good therapist so while it would be great to have external help, at the moment I'm looking for readings, ideas, experiences, methods, and so on.

I have felt jealousy and possessiveness towards close female friends, attractive women acquaintances, sometimes even family or male friends if I fear they are being prioritized too highly. It's very difficult for me to see my partner being affectionate or close to another woman. It is especially difficult to me to see other women friends depend in some way on him or enjoy his affection. And it's difficult when he confides in friends about our relationship, especially female friends.

My understanding is that we need to work on both ends of it. He needs to understand and accept my jealousy, make compromises sometimes, and help me feel safe and cared for. And I need to work on my jealousy to build trust and peace within myself and allow him greater and greater freedom. And I suppose I should be focusing on the second bit which is why I ask this question.
posted by miaow to Human Relations (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Here are the steps that have helped me:

1. Pay attention to the feeling of jealousy when it arises. Learn to observe it. Ask yourself questions about it. Does it feel the same in every instance? Do you experience feelings that are a little different from each other but all fall under the label jealousy? Is it sometimes stronger than others? Use a 1-10 jealousy scale, like a pain scale. Meditation can help with this.

2. At a time you're not immediately wrapped up in a strong feeling of jealousy, remember the last time you felt jealous and ask yourself if there was a feeling behind the jealousy. The three most common for me are insecurity in myself, insecurity in the relationship, or envy.

3. Once you have identified the feeling behind the jealousy, address that. If I'm feeling insecure in myself, for example, because I'm not accomplishing something, I make a plan of how to tackle it and get the first step done. If I'm feeling insecure about my body, I work on feeling compassionate for myself. If I'm feeling insecure in the relationship, I ask for what would help me feel more secure. Do I need a date night where we focus on each other? Maybe just a hug and some validating words? Is there a bigger ongoing problem in the relationship? Schedule a time to talk it out with your partner. If I'm envious of a woman, what is it I wish I had myself? If it's achievable like she writes poetry and I never make time to write, I make time to write. If it's something like she's rich or beautiful I make a list of what I am grateful for in my life and my strengths to bring my focus back to the positive.

4. When jealousy arises practice just sitting with it and letting it be. If it's a sign of something you need to address, you will figure it out later when you have some space from the feeling. If it's just a feeling arising out of habit with nothing real behind it, it will pass.

Two more thoughts:

You mention this has been a pattern for you in other relationships, but it is still worthwhile to ask yourself if in this relationship your jealousy is arising because you are sensing something real going on. Are there actual signs of cheating? If you aren't sure you can trust yourself, you could enlist a close friend to help you evaluate this. Alternatively, even if there are no real signs of cheating, do you feel insecure in the relationship due to a larger disconnect?

I also greatly reduced my jealousy, insecurities in myself, and envy of other women accidentally after I took a challenge to only read books by women for a year. After that year I found myself naturally gravitating toward all sorts of media (music, tv, film, art) by women more than I ever had in my life. I also found I felt a strong sense of sisterhood and much more compassion for myself and other women which reduced jealousy a ton. You might try increasing your woman-created media intake.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 3:13 AM on November 5, 2017 [9 favorites]

Jealousy crops up when you feel dependent on someone or something, as if you'll be lost if it is taken away. I believe in thinking all the way through the worst-case scenario. Is the worst case here that your boyfriend may leave you for another woman? Instead of focusing on how likely or unlikely he is to leave you (this just increases anxiety and jealousy), do a mental exercise where you take it as a given that he will. Think all the way through what would happen next: what suitcase would you use to pack your things, where would you move to, what hobby would you take up, what new circle of friends would you build? Because realistically, you would survive if he left, and you would even thrive. Remember you are a person who is resourceful, who can take care of herself, who has a support network.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 5:29 AM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

And it's difficult when he confides in friends about our relationship, especially female friends.

You have a perfect right to be upset about this. I would like to hear more about the affection he is showing other women before I advise you to work on your jealousy
posted by uans at 8:04 AM on November 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

"My understanding is that we need to work on both ends of it. He needs to understand and accept my jealousy, make compromises sometimes, and help me feel safe and cared for. And I need to work on my jealousy to build trust and peace within myself and allow him greater and greater freedom."

I don't think this is correct. He does not have to accept your jealousy. It sounds like you are a woman and he is a man. If a man were to write the first sentence, everyone would lash out that he was abusive. As a woman, I have zero patience for jealousy in men I date. I consider it a problem that they need to work on without involving me. This assumes that your partner is treating you well and is not actually cheating (emotionally or physically) or neglecting you.

It's unclear from your question whether your partner is treating you well. A few examples may help. In what way is he being affectionate with other women? Is he hugging female friends when saying goodbye (wouldn't bother me) or is he cuddling with friends in front of you (would bother me)?

It's also unclear in what way he's prioritizing other people over you. This could be appropriate, for instance cancelling your plans and rushing to visit a sick family member. It could also be horribly inappropriate, for instance cancelling a vacation so he could be a "shoulder to cry on" for a friend who was going through a break up.

Overall, it's difficult for me to tell if your jealous feelings are healthy (telling you something is very wrong) or unhealthy (consuming you and ruining what could be a happy relationship).
posted by parakeetdog at 8:36 AM on November 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

For all we know, you may genuinely have something to feel jealous about. There's a certain kind of man that actively courts female attention for validation, and of course, some people cheat. It's not clear if this is one of those situations or not, so I'm a little reticent to just give advice to tell you to ignore your feelings.
posted by Jubey at 12:56 PM on November 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

This is a pattern that has cropped up in all my relationships, so I know I have some work to do. The only reason I have for insecurity with my current boyfriend is the past... That he used to cheat, and seek female validation, in previous relationships. He's done a lot of work since then and I have no valid reason for my jealousy.
posted by miaow at 5:16 PM on November 5, 2017

It could be a pattern because you may be picking the same type of men over and over again.
Personally, I would consider a man confiding about our relationship with other women to be a problem. That sounds like the old "my wife doesn't understand me" routine.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:16 AM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've been with my wife for almost 15 years, never confided with anyone about our relationship, male or female. Hell probably 80% of the times I even mention her to other people is to add context to these kinds of answers on AskMe.

I would find my partner confiding in anyone other than a therapist about our relationship a deal breaker.
posted by French Fry at 9:10 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

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