(See the full six-part series here.)
Recap: To get anywhere with jealousy you have to know what’s behind it. And there isn’t one answer to this. That’s why labeling the situation “jealousy” and stopping there leads to problems. There’s a few basic flavors. What people refer to as “jealousy” is most often one of three things: envy/desire, possessiveness/ownership, or insecurity.
Some examples of what it can feel like:
Fearful, anxious, protective, a need to constrain or control, insecure, threatened, nervous
Some examples of what it can look like:
- Fear that your partner is going to leave you
- Needing lots of reassurance
- Feeling threatened when your partner interacts with others
- Having ever more complicated rules for your partner to follow, to avoid your anxious feelings
- False or exaggerated accusations
- Projection: seeing attractive qualities in someone and believing your partner is attracted to them
What’s underneath it:
Self-doubt, low self-esteem or self-worth, lack of confidence, or behaving in ways you don’t feel good about.
What you need to know:
People who are confident, who like themselves, and who feel good about how they treat their partner tend to be less jealous.
Relationships are the perfect echo chamber for your own sense of attractiveness, performance anxiety, self-esteem, etc.
So you’d better believe the relationship is solid, that you’re worthy and worth it, that you’re the best match for your partner.
If you have doubts about those things, that is where to put your attention.
When people don’t feel good about themselves, this cycle occurs:
- They feel unlovable, abandon-able.
- Their partner’s love, as a stand-in, becomes ultra-important…
- …which leads to them being over-protective, or controlling, or needy…
- …then feel ashamed of this behavior, making them feel even more unlovable and abandon-able.
And if you really want to feel insecure, threatened and jealous in the relationship… treat your partner poorly. Do that, and you will be eternally on edge and constantly accusing them in your head of being on the brink of leaving you.
I’ll say that again. The worse you treat your partner, the more you’re at risk of feeling insecure and jealous in the relationship.
I’ve written about the connection between self-worth and having a good relationship with the opposite sex before, and the work I needed to do to get there myself.
There’s another very specific flavor of insecure jealousy that leads to false (or exaggerated) accusations. It actually has little to do with your partner at all. They’re pretty much caught in the crossfire of how you feel about yourself, inflamed by something you see in the third party, this other person you’re convinced your partner has the hots for. Here’s how it goes.
- You see something you like in Third Party, something you admire. You see positive qualities, something you think is attractive…
- Then you compare yourself to them and feel inadequate….
- Then you project all of that onto your partner, accusing them of wanting to run off with Third Party and leave you in the dust.
Actually, the only one who’s abandoning you in this scenario is you. You’re basically cheating on yourself in your mind and trying to frame your partner for the crime.
This is similar to envy, but derailed into self-loathing. (Rather than what it could be: inspiration.)
What to do about it (a.k.a. Hard Truth for you to wake up to):
The opposite of security is insecurity.
Read that again and think about it.
“Security” is something we tend to think of as an attribute of the relationship. Or as something our partner creates and provides for us.
But it’s not. “Insecurity” we instantly recognize as a quality of the self, something that can only be resolved from within.
No amount of reassurance from our partner is going to help. Nor is it going to lead to a healthy, happy, resilient, or long-lasting relationship. It’s just going to cover up the real, biggest threat to the relationship and make things worse over the long run. If you want a good relationship — with anyone — there’s some internal work you’re going to need to do.
Here’s a good place to start. First of all, give yourself a break! Secondly, what ever happened to being inspired by someone’s example and striving to emulate their good qualities? Third, try and remember that your partner has their own reasons for loving you. And most importantly, stop with the false accusations! Let it be legitimate that this is about you, and commit yourself to doing the work to get to a different place. Let it be that your partner, and this relationship, are worth it and valuable enough to you to believe in its solidity and rise to the occasion. Let it call forth the best in you.
(Next up: Possession/Ownership.)
© 2016 by Ken Blackman. All rights reserved.
About the author:
Ken’s passion topic these days is how women’s empowerment intersects with intimate coupledom. A former Apple software engineer turned international sex and intimacy educator turned relationship coach, Ken is in his 20th year helping couples co-create, bond, have great sex, thrive, and live happily ever after. His work has garnered mentions in Business Insider, Playboy, Cosmo, Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour series and elsewhere. Find out more at kenblackman.com.