Jealousy can ruin your relationship, but here's how to stop that from happening.
Sam feels frustrated after a visit with his doctor. His blood pressure is high and he's developing a stomach ulcer. None of these health conditions are a big surprise to Sam. He's been super-stressed for months and it's largely because of all of his pent-up feelings.
It all started when Sam's wife's ex-husband moved back to their small town. Because her ex is respected and loved by family, friends and community members, Sam has been repeatedly told how great this man is, and how he's such a wonderful father and an all-around fabulous guy.
Hearing these stories and high praise always caused Sam to feel inferior and slightly threatened by his wife's ex, but the feelings were always manageable because he lived in a different country. But now that he has returned home, it's become impossible to deny.
Sam feels like a nobody compared to this local hero, and the jealousy is taking a toll on his health — and on his marriage, too.
What triggers your jealousy? The answer is different for everyone. For some people like Sam, jealousy rears its head when an ex is somehow in the picture. Maybe your partner regularly communicates with or spends time with an ex because the two share parenting of a child, or maybe because they've managed to remain friends.
Perhaps you have come into contact with your partner's ex and this sparks a painful comparison game in your mind. Or maybe all you have to do is think about them, and it brings up worry and fear that you don't measure up or that your partner will leave you for him or her.
Another jealousy trigger can come up in social situations, especially if your partner is more extroverted than you are or if he or she is a flirt. Even if your partner only has eyes for you, the cruel comparison game that you play in your mind is a trigger.
Distance in the relationship will also trigger jealousy. If you and your partner are physically apart either temporarily or on a long-term basis, this can makes it a challenge to stay connected and maintain trust. Physical absence is not good for an imagination prone to jealousy.
Emotional distance in a relationship will most certainly trigger jealousy, too. Unresolved disagreements, misunderstandings and long-held resentments can all stir up jealous thoughts and cause you to act in ways you might not otherwise.
It's important to identify what triggers your jealousy and then take steps to minimize the influence that trigger has on you. Most important of all is to practice techniques that help you to calm down and see more clearly.
No matter whether your jealousy is triggered by your partner's ex, social situations or distance in your relationship, these five cures will help you move beyond the trigger's effects:
1. Find a way to let out your negative feelings.
All of that frustration and anxiety isn't going to go away on its own. Instead of trying to dull, distract or deny how you feel, find a way to let it out. Contrary to what your impulse might be, you don't have to let it out all over your partner either!
Create a private space and time for yourself to give a whoop and holler. A round of yelling — not AT anyone — can be cleansing and will help you release those pent-up emotions.
2. Soak in a hot bath.
Water can be very soothing for stirred up feelings, including jealousy. If just thinking about what's triggering your jealousy is too much to take, run a hot bath and go soak in the tub. If you'd like to be more active, go to your local pool or lake and take a swim.
3. Write it all down.
Write down the thoughts you're having about your partner's ex, the flirting, or your fears that you will be betrayed and left. Write it all down without censoring yourself and then focus in on the central thought or belief. Question it. Look for facts to show you that this thought or belief is not as solid and "true" as you might think.
4. Take a brisk walk alone.
Interrupting the momentum of your jealousy can be a huge help. If you're caught up in worry because your partner will be spending time with her ex, clear your head by going for a brisk walk.
As you walk, direct your attention to your breath, your surroundings, and the feel of your feet on the ground. This calm and clarity is an essential part of handling a triggering situation with more grace and ease than usual.
5. Love yourself — and your partner.
One thing that will make your jealousy grow and possibly build beyond control is if you meet it with criticism, hostility and hatred. It's understandable that you don't like to feel jealous — nobody does. It's even understandable that you don't like certain situations or even people. But don't let negativity inflame your jealousy. The more you can cultivate sincere love, the better.
Love yourself. Love your partner. If you can, love the feelings you're having. Your jealousy is an important signal. It's telling you to slow down and go inside yourself to understand what you're feeling and what you need to do for yourself to feel better.