Falling into the jealousy trap is dangerously easy. Everyone feels jealous, especially in relationships. But if jealousy is taking over your life and driving your partner away, it’s time to do something about these feelings. There are several strategies you can use to eliminate toxic jealousy from your life:
Acknowledge your feelings
Your feelings are telling you something, so don’t ignore them. “That’s how jealousy becomes toxic, gets acted out in exaggerated ways, and can become highly destructive,” Mark B. Borg Jr., Ph.D. says. Just because you have a jealous thought does not make you a jealous person. Dating & relationship coach Dr. Carol Morgan suggests looking at your thoughts as objectively as you can and temporarily accepting them. “Separate yourself from your feelings,” says Risa Ganel, MS, LCMFT. She recommends taking the time to think about how you really feel—and how you want to respond—before making another move.
Identify the cause
Every instance of jealousy is unique, but, according to Morgan, “they are all rooted in one basic problem – not feeling good about yourself.” This low self-esteem usually stems from your childhood. If your parents didn’t show you enough love or if they were bad relationship role models, those events could impact your current relationship. “Identify the hurt that started in childhood and now gets reactivated in your adult romantic choices,” advises Jill P. Weber Ph.D. Being neurotic, possessive, and overly-dependent on your partner can also make you more likely to be jealous, says Gwendolyn Seidman Ph.D.
Communicate with your partner
Talk with your partner about your feelings once you’ve analyzed them. “There is no shame in admitting that you are feeling insecure or jealous to your partner,” says Morgan. They might even have been feeling jealous, too! During the conversation, make sure you’re not blaming them for your feelings. “You want to own your emotions and be in charge of them,” Ganel says. If there’s something specific that they do that makes you feel insecure, tell them. They should be able to give you a reassuring explanation. If they don’t, you have other issues to address. But don’t try to control your partner or snoop. “No relationship has ever improved through snooping,” warns Ganel.
If jealousy comes from low self-esteem, remind yourself how much of a boss you are! Morgan suggests writing down your own positive and negative qualities, stopping comparing yourself to others, and loving yourself enough to not fear being alone. She also recommends seeing a therapist to address any self-esteem issues. You might also need to examine your assumptions about relationships and human nature in general. “For better or for worse, we learn how to behave in relationships from observing how our parents did it,” she says. But our parents weren’t perfect and we may have picked up some unhealthy habits from them that we need to unlearn. In the end, it’s up to you to address these feelings. “As you might suspect by now, getting rid of insecurities and jealousy in a relationship has very little to do with the other person, and everything to do with you,” she says.