By David Joel Miller.
Relationship jealousy is a major reason people seek marriage counseling.
Jealousy can destroy your primary relationship. Couples who come in for
relationship counseling, are commonly plagued by jealous behaviors. Often one of the parties believes the other is having or has had an affair. Sometimes it’s this discovery of the affair the brings the couple in to see the marriage counselor. Other times the truth of the affair comes out as the couple explores their jealous feelings.
The most destructive type of jealousy is the pathological, delusional variety of jealous, in which one partner is constantly checking because they believe their partners are cheating despite a total lack of evidence. If you do not manage this extreme variety of jealousy, it can escalate to violence, police involvement, restraining orders and can bring an end to the relationship.
Before coming to counseling, many couples have tried coping with jealous feelings by using unhelpful coping strategies.
Jealous couples may deny they have a problem.
Some couples have an unspoken agreement that they will pretend the jealousy between them is normal and not a problem. When the jealousy is largely on one side, more commonly the male, that partner frequently will deny that they have a problem with jealousy and will blame their partner. The jealous person may refuse to take responsibility for their jealousy and tell their partner “you make me jealous.”
Stonewalling and refusing to talk, will make jealousy worse.
A common way jealous people avoid looking at their part in the problem is to refuse to talk about it. Refusing to discuss problems is very destructive of close relationships.
Seek revenge on your partner or rival doesn’t help jealous feelings.
An unduly jealous partner may drop in on their partner at work, destroy things and try to prevent the object of their jealousy from being able to see or to talk to the person they perceive as their rival. I’ve witnessed jealous people, both men and women, show up at a class and threaten or attack the person they believe to be flirting with their partner.
If jealousy is a problem in your relationship, seek help.
Don’t wait to deal with jealousy in your relationship until it escalates into violence, legal involvement or destroys your relationship. When couples come to counseling and jealousy is an issue there are several things the counselor will look at. Is the jealousy problem a couple’s issue, the result of poor communication or disagreements about appropriate behavior?
When a couple first gets together a shy or insecure person may be very attractive to an outgoing, friendly, person. After a while, what they like the attention, they become jealous when their partner acts in precisely the same that originally attracted them.
One other thing the counselor needs to rule out, sometimes the feeling of jealousy is well founded. Your partner’s behavior may be a genuine threat to the relationship. Sometimes the causes of the jealousy are your partner’s inappropriate close relationship with another person. Jealousy may be well found if your partner is having an affair.
Here are some of the techniques counselor might use to help couples deal openly and honestly with the issue of jealousy.
Talk openly and honestly about your feelings of jealousy.
Not talking about things leaves the imagination to magnify insignificant events into horrific threats. Rather than letting jealousy poison your relationship the jealous person should explain when they are jealous and what is making them feel jealous. It’s important for the jealous person to take ownership of the feeling rather than to blame their partner by saying “you make me jealous.”
Requesting reassurance from your partner may reduce jealousy.
It can be helpful to the jealous person to hear from their partner that their relationship is intact. Hearing that your partner values the relationship and is willing to do things to make you feel less threatened and more secure can help reduce feelings of jealousy.
You may need to reevaluate your relationship.
When a partner can’t reassure you or is unwilling to stop seeing the person that is causing your jealousy, one or both people may need to reevaluate this relationship. If your partner insists they will continue to see someone else, there may be good reasons for your jealousy. Sometimes the feeling of jealousy is trying to tell that there is a real threat to your relationship.
Reduce jealousy by questioning your assumptions.
Many feelings we call “negative feelings,” are based in reality. These feelings tell us that something bad is or has happened. Other times, however, those negative feelings you are experiencing are the result of a lot of “unhelpful thoughts” you are having. Rather than assume that your partner’s jealousy means your relationship is threatened; re-examine those beliefs. Be very careful about jumping to conclusions. People with a bias towards jealousy, anger, anxiety, and depression, are likely to perceive everything is being much more significant and much more negative than it is. If jealousy is troubling your relationships, consider working with a professional to see if you have reason to be jealous or you are making faulty assumptions.
Stay tuned in for more posts about jealousy; it’s causes and its treatment, which is coming up soon. More information about Jealousy and its treatment is or will be at Jealousy.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.) Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.
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