Persistent jealousy destroys relationships. It is often about the oldest of all relationship problems: Security versus Freedom. If you don’t have a clear understanding between you about what each of you mean by secure relationship and individual freedom, you may head into trouble.
Talking about jealousy often triggers the most powerful reactivity and conflict. So plan a time when you can both approach this without being reactive, combative or withdrawn. Use Intentional Dialogue. This is difficult so you must be extremely disciplined.
STOP focusing on your partner’s behaviour – “If only you would stop flirting, being unfaithful ..” or “Stop being possessive, controlling ..” That’s not the point. This is about dealing with the pain, for both of you, of jealous feelings in this relationship, whether they are justified or not.
If you feel jealous, admit it. Say what each feeling is like for you – angry, suspicious, possessive, vulnerable, sad, etc. This is no longer about fault or blame. (“Its your fault for flirting, being unfaithful”, etc) Talk about yourself only – openly and honestly, just describing the pain of what feeling jealous is like for you.
If you are the one with a jealous partner and you want to resolve things, you must admit to everything that might have caused this in your relationship, with complete honesty and openness. Also describe your pain about hearing accusations: guilt, anger, shame, misunderstood, etc. Describe each feeling in detail.
Take turns to listen to your partner’s feelings with empathy, encourage him/her to expand, then “white-knuckle” through it without interrupting. Show you have understood by mirroring what you heard. Remember to say also what it is that you value about your partner.
If you have both been honest about your different feelings, you now have more informed choices about adapting your behaviour, or choosing a different path. Stop fixating on ways in which you want your partner to change. Choose what you want for you. The only person you have a right to control is yourself.
You may now have to talk about how each of you understand the boundaries of the relationship: your individual red lines. You can feel both free and secure. If you want this relationship you may have to compromise; nobody can have total freedom or total security. All worthwhile relationships involve risks.
Couples therapy could be a creative way forward.
With thanks to:
The State of Affairs by E Perel,
The Anatomy of Love by H Fisher,
Getting the Love You Want by H Hendrix
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