How to Deal With Jealousy in a Relationship

Jealousy is a relationship killer. Learn how to stop being jealous in your relationship.

A woman jealously peaking at her boyfriend’s phone

Matthew accidentally calls his girlfriend by another woman’s name. Jamie notices her husband looking at her best friend a little too long. And, James goes on and on about his new co-worker Hope. What happens next? The green-eyed monster rears its ugly head. In other words, these partners become jealous.

Jealousy involves a stomach-turning combination of suspicion, humiliation, embarrassment, anger, and possessiveness. It invades your mind and threatens your self-esteem and self-confidence. Jealousy can popup in your relationship at any time – from the beginning of it to many years into it. It can even take hold at the end of your relationship – right before you break up.

It is “normal” and even healthy to experience jealousy from time-to-time. It can even make you feel closer to your partner in certain situations. However, jealousy can also get pretty “dicey” under the right circumstances. It can escalate to the point that it becomes extreme jealousy.

Extreme jealousy can lead to personal distress, hurt feelings, affairs and ultimately breakups. On top of that, according to studies, jealousy is the leading cause of partner/spousal homicide.

The good news is you don’t have to allow jealousy to destroy your relationship and personal wellbeing. You can address it before it gets out of hand. This article will help you recognize the signs of jealousy, and give you advice on how to stop it before it ruins your relationship.

Why Am I jealous of my partner?

A woman pondering why is she jealous of her partner
Most therapists believe that it either stems from childhood trauma or emotional distress

Jealousy ultimately stems fear – a fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss. It also stems from insecurity – insecurity towards your partner and how you see yourself. In other words, in your mind, your partner belongs to you. Therefore, jealousy arises when you aren’t sure if or how to keep the person you love in your life.

For instance, Ray becomes jealous because he’s afraid of losing his wife to some other man. He’s also afraid of looking foolish to his friends and family, if she leaves him. The worst thing in the world, besides losing the love of his life, is losing the respect of others. It is this insecurity that triggers his fear. However, studies suggest that when a person no longer feels insecure; those fears, namely jealousy, lessen.

Most therapists believe that jealousy in a relationship is triggered by something that happened to the person long ago. In other words, they believe it either stems from childhood trauma or emotional distress.

In fact, studies suggest that people, who feel incompetent, insecure, imperfect, and/or dependent on others, are typically more jealous than those, who are more secure and confident.

No gender is safe from feelings of jealousy in a relationship. Studies suggest that both genders experience jealousy roughly the same. Results indicate that women tend to be more willing to address their jealousy. They do it so that they can hold-on to their partners. Men on the other hand are more likely to leave a jealous partner to “save face” or protect their reputation and/or self-esteem.

How does jealousy make a person feel?

A woman sitting on a bench with strong feelings of jealousy
Jealousy can trigger feelings of vengeance, disgust, frustration, anxiety, shame, depression, impulsiveness, and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness

Jealousy can trigger a variety of upsetting emotions, such as rage, vengeance, disgust, frustration, anxiety, shame, depression, impulsiveness, and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

For instance, Eli’s ex-girlfriend cheated on him several times and he forgave her each time. However, she still ended up leaving him. Now, with his new girlfriend, he’s constantly looking for signs that she’s doing the same – even if she’s not.

In other words, he’s inventing imaginary scenarios in his head that simply aren’t true. It is gotten to the point that anytime he catches his girlfriend talking to man, he accuses her of cheating.

It’s common for jealous people to believe they are not “good enough” for their partners. This causes them to become paranoid, insecure, obsessive, and suspicious. They also tend to view their partners as “better” than themselves – i.e. smarter, sexier, and/or more attractive. In their minds, someone could snatch their partners up at a moment’s notice, and they wouldn’t be able to stop it.

What is exaggerated jealousy in a relationship?

A woman secretly looking at her husband’s phone
Exaggerated Jealousy is so extreme that it damages or destroys the relationship

It’s “normal” for people to occasionally experience jealousy. However, when jealousy becomes so exaggerated, irrational, and dangerous that it damages or destroys a relationship, it is considered extreme. For instance, if a wife believes her husband is having an affair (when he is not), and shows up at the workplace of his “mistress” to confront her, that is an example of extreme jealousy in a relationship.

This level of jealousy occurs when one partner feels competitive towards the person she views as a “rival.” The jealous partner will compare herself to her “rival,” causing a decline in her self-esteem and self-confidence. Keep in mind that extreme jealousy can get very dangerous very quickly. It may stem from being abandoned or rejected in the past by loved ones, such as previous partners or parents.

How does jealousy affect a relationship?

A couple fighting because the man acts in a jealous way
Jealousy can eventually lead to a breakup

Jealousy can lead to a “troubled” relationship. A high level of jealousy triggers unrealistic thoughts and emotions. It also leads to impulsive, inconsiderate, disrespectful, and dangerous behaviors.

When an extremely jealous partner feels humiliated, he can become controlling and violent towards the other one. He may even resort to listening to his partner’s phone calls, reading her text messages, signing into her social media accounts, and stalking her to make sure she’s not talking to or seeing other men.

The jealous partner may even restrict his partner’s ability to leave the house and talk to friends and family. Moreover, it’s not uncommon for this individual to investigate his suspicions by showing up at his partner’s work, going through his things, smelling his clothing, hiring a private investigator, and/or calling him repeatedly when he’s out.

If jealous partners find out that their suspicions and fears are unjustified, they often refuse to believe it. It doesn’t matter if their partners provide them with evidence that they are not cheating. The jealous partners will continue to accuse them of being unfaithful. It is this level of jealousy that ruins a relationship.

How does jealousy affect the non-jealous partner? If it is chronic and continuous, it can cause this person to experience feelings of hopeless and helplessness, fear, anger, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even Stockholm syndrome.

Five ways to stop being jealous in your relationship:

Here a five steps you can take to overcome feelings of jealousy in your relationship

  1. Stop playing games

    A man calmly telling his wife what makes him feel jealous

    You’ll continue to be jealous, if you continue to play games. Jealous people like to make their partners jealous to prove a point. More specifically, they do this to see if their partners are being faithful. This is the worst thing you can do. Flirting with other people in front of your partner not only leads to hurt feelings and jealousy, but could also potentially end your relationship.

    So, refrain from continuously bringing up things you and your exes used to do or what you liked about them – in front of your partner. Also, avoid talking about how funny or cute your co-worker is in front of your partner. You may think it’s cute, but it’s not.

    So, save these confessions for your best friend – and not your partner. No one expects you to be blind towards other people, but you don’t have to use it as a weapon against your partner, simply because you want to get a rise out of him.

  2. Don’t compare yourself to others

    A woman measuring her waist

    One way you can stop being jealous is to stop comparing yourself to others. Low self-esteem and insecurity are often triggers for jealousy. For instance, an insecure person may say, “I don’t get why John is with me…He could have any girl he wants, so why plain old me?” The truth is attraction typically involves more than just physical qualities.

    Maybe, your partner likes the way you think or the way you respond to challenging situations. Or, maybe, she likes that you are kind and considerate towards others. Regardless, there is something special about you that others don’t have, and that is why she loves you and wants to be with you. So, stop trying to figure out why she loves you and not someone else. And, start acknowledging how awesome you really are.

    Nothing comes to mind? Well, ask friends what they like about you. Better yet, ask your partner – and write it down on Post-It notes. That way you could remember how special you are when you feel insecure about yourself and/or your relationship.

  3. Use guided imagery to get rid of compulsive jealousy thinking patterns

    Woman listening to guided imagery to stop being jealous

    Guided imagery, also referred to as ‘guided meditation,’ ‘visualization,’ and ‘self-hypnosis,’ is an effective therapeutic technique used to help you concentrate on positive mental images.

    In a guided imagery practice session, you sit down and imagine a positive scenario. In the case of dealing with jealousy, you imagine cases that would usually trigger feelings of jealousy, so you can remain calm and trusting.

    This technique relies on many of your senses – i.e. hearing, seeing, touching, and smelling. It is an all-encompassing experience. It is believed that the mind is unable to clearly distinguish between real and imagined experiences. Therefore, when you repeatedly imagine these positive, jealousy-free scenarios, you anchor new and healthier thinking patterns.

    That is why guided imagery is so beneficial for people, who have compulsive jealousy thinking patterns. It helps them understand why they feel the way they do. Once you understand your thinking patterns you can avoid insecurity and self-doubt, common triggers of jealously.

    In other words, it eases anxiety, so your mind is not focused on what your partner is or isn’t doing. Guided imagery can help you control and manage your emotions, preventing you from misjudging situations and behaving irrationally. It prevents your mind from going to the worst-case scenario. Thus, it helps you think more positively, so you do not come across as an overly jealous partner.

    Practicing guided imagery can ultimately prevent you from behaving in a way that will damage or destroy your relationship.

    The good news is you don’t have to see a counselor or therapist to enjoy the benefits of guided imagery. You can practice this technique on your own by using an online guided imagery script or developing your own personalized script. There are a wide-range of self-help guides and books, along with prerecorded guided imagery scripts and online guided imagery programs that can teach how to perform this technique.

  4. Relax a little

    Two women happily waiving their boyfriends good on their way to a boy’s night out

    This is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in your relationship, but relax a little. More specifically, lengthen your partner’s leash. For instance, if your partner wants to have a “girls’ night” with her best friends – give her your blessing – even if you don’t really want to.

    “Imprisoning” your partner because you are afraid of what she may do when away from you, will only make her want to run for the hills. Give your partner a little freedom and independence. This will prove to her that you trust her and that you’re not the jealous type. As a result, it may just strengthen your relationship and cause her to fall in love with you all over again.

    Furthermore, if you catch your partner talking to a co-worker – don’t freak out. Relax a little and let them chat. Remind yourself that he is with you – not that other person, so there’s no need to be jealous.

  5. Come back to reality

    A woman writing down why she loves her partner

    Jealousy, like most cases of emotional distress, is often driven by irrational thinking and an unrealistic and unhealthy imagination. It is important to understand that a vivid imagination is healthy – as long as it doesn’t cause you to lose touch with reality.

    In other words, if it causes you to conjure up inaccurate and illogical scenarios, it is time to come back to reality. If you stay stuck in fantasyland, it may cost you your relationship.

    So, when you feel yourself slipping into the “rabbit hole,” grab a piece of paper and jot down why you love your partner. Also, write down all of the ways your partner shows you that he loves you too. The best way to stop jealousy in its tracks is to be realistic and stop imagining the worst case scenario.

  6. Love yourself

    A woman making a list of all of her positive qualities

    A good way to stop being jealous is to love yourself. Remember, jealousy is caused by a fear of being rejected or abandoned. Some people stay in unhealthy relationships because they are ultimately afraid of being alone. They love the other person more than they love themselves.

    So, the best thing you can do for yourself and your relationship is to learn how to love yourself – even if your partner leaves. You can do this by preparing yourself for the worst case scenario – your partner rejecting or abandoning you.

    Make a list of all of your positive qualities, such as you’re funny, clever, and smart. Or, you’re kind, considerate, thoughtful, and compassionate. Also, write down why you make an awesome partner. For instance, you could write down that you cook your partner breakfast every morning or you’re always there when your partner needs you.

    When you feel “down” or insecure in your relationship pull out this list and review it. Once you start to love yourself, you won’t feel the need to be so jealous of others.

Should I seek professional help?

It depends. If you are experiencing mild or “justifiable” jealousy because you have a cause to, you may want to re-evaluate your relationship. This is especially true if you’re not really the jealous type. There is a reason you are jealous now, so it is important to explore why.

However, if jealousy is affecting your self-esteem and self-confidence, relationship, and quality of life, you should definitely seek professional help. Extreme jealousy can be destructive and dangerous for you, your partner, and your “threat.”

You may not feel like it has gotten to that point, however, jealousy can escalate quickly, if left unchecked. In addition, being jealous all of the time is draining, depressing, and anxiety-provoking. No one should have to live like that.

A counselor will not only help you work through your jealousy, but also teach you coping skills for when you feel insecure. He can also help you regain the joy you used to feel – personally and in your relationship.

Final thoughts…

Jealousy in a relationship has very little to do with your partner, and everything to do with you – how you see yourself in comparison to others. A good way to stop being jealous is to first love, value, and respect yourself – then your partner.

Trust plays a major role in a relationship, so if that is missing for any reason, your relationship will not survive. And, although it’s “normal” to be jealous from time-to-time, when it becomes constant and extreme, it can destroy everything you hold dear. Therefore, the best thing you can do is seek help, if you feel your jealousy is getting out-of-control.

About R.Y Langham, PhD

Psychologist and Marriage Therapist

Dr. R.Y. Langham is a certified psychologist and marriage therapist. She holds a PhD in family psychology from Capella University and an MMFT in marriage and family therapy from Trevecca Nazarene University.

Dr. Langham serves as a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic, where she writes, edits, and reviews professional materials and articles on the topics of sex and relationships.