Feeling jealous, the threat of losing your partner to someone else (or something, e.g. substances, porn), can be excruciating. First you have the pain of feeling jealous and then the pain of feeling bad about being that way: the horror of realising how dependent you are. Then there is the fear of being perceived as “a control-freak” or deluded. You may end up feeling powerless and often exploding with rage. Now your partner starts to back off and the relationship is eroded by frequent arguments.
In her book, The State of Affairs, Esther Perel notes how people in many “Western” cultures seem to deny the very existence of jealousy in relationships; instead they say: “I am being traumatised,” “having intrusive thoughts” or “being obsessive” etc. Indeed, jealousy is conspicuous by its absence from many books on about relationships.
So both the internal pain and public shame of having jealous feelings means that people keep it hidden: their crazed feelings about their partner’s alone-time are withheld; tracking his/her direction of gaze at social events becomes covert and surreptitious; the auditing of expenditure is secret; spying on devices gets evermore furtive and frequent.
Add to this the fact that jealousy is often an “old” feeling being re-triggered by the circumstances. Intimate relationship can bring up hurts we had in the past. Your partner does something, and instantly you are triggered back to feeling as you did when a sibling got unfair attention, or mother ignored you when your step father was there, or when a previous partner betrayed you.
Some jealous feelings of course are natural and justified – your partner is having an affair, your wife is totally involved in the new baby, your partner is obsessed with porn or excludes you with extremes of computer time or social media.
So have some compassion for yourselves if you are trying to deal with jealous feelings in your relationship. It presents the most extreme challenges: powerlessness and rage; guilt and/or anger. Blame, lies and hate may follow.
Being open with your partner about worrying jealous feelings may feel like a huge risk but in the long run it is the only way out. You have to choose a time and place very carefully; and be aware that your partner is going to suffer as well as yourself.
With thanks to:The State of Affairs by E Perel,
Staying Together by S Quilliam,
The Dance of Anger by H Lerner,
Overcoming Anger and Irritability by W Davies,
The Truth about Love by P Love,
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