How you can turn jealousy into a gift…
Without pouring acid onto your partner’s car, throwing their belongings into the street or boiling their rabbit!
Jealousy. It’s a common experience in relationships of the romantic variety, whether for a moment or a lifetime. In fact, we
assume it is almost impossible to have one without the other! Many a great book, movie or song is testament to this fact.
In the early stages of relationship, before a deep level of trust has developed, or to spice things up in a flat spot, a little bit of jealousy can be a good thing. A twinge of uneasiness whilst seeing your partner across the room chatting enthusiastically to an attractive member of the opposite sex can instantly create a spurt of desire for them in yourself!
But jealousy over the long term is a gut churning, painful misery, where trust and happiness seem like a distant memory. The truth is this is saying much more about YOU than your partner. Here we look at how jealousy in ourselves can be a tool for learning rather than suffering.
It is said that jealousy only hurts the one creating it, whether there is a basis of truth in the jealousy or not.
Jealousy seems to thrive on the belief that those we’re jealous of are somehow happy, totally fulfilled, even victorious (whether it’s true or not), whilst we’re left alone filled with a seething mass of unendurable, quite visceral and primal emotions. The intensity of these feelings has us constantly focussing on the betraying partner and their ‘accomplice’, often to the exclusion of everything else. Our view of reality, driven by our out of control emotions becomes warped, making revenge seem like a reasonable response.
Although the perceptions that accompany jealousy may be distorted, the pain it gives rise to is real. The neural circuitry that underlies our psychological response to such complex social events as being accepted or rejected is the same circuitry that underlies the simplest physical pains and pleasures.
Here we’re NOT attempting to excuse our partner if they’ve been behaving in an inappropriate manner, see dealing with infidelity) just to understand what we can do with the hurt we’re experiencing.
The problem with jealousy is that it isn’t just one feeling on its own, it’s a combination of several different feelings ranging from anger and even rage to envy and powerlessness. Underlying all of these is usually shame, because our partner seeking someone else leaves us feeling like we’re somehow inadequate in ourselves, leaving us with a crisis of identity. This shame is enhanced when a partner’s affair becomes public knowledge and everyone who knows us (and even some who don’t) has an opinion and often a vicarious enjoyment of seeing others going through their worst nightmare.
Our jealousy can be compounded by guilt if we believe we’ve done something to somehow ‘deserve’ the other’s behaviour, or by the socially acceptable idea of revenge if we believe we’re the wronged party.
Most of all jealousy feels so extremely uncomfortable we want to get rid of it in any way we can. We do this by wanting our partner to instantly stop doing what it is that makes us jealous, or for what has happened to make us jealous not to have happened. Both these things are outside of our control so here we focus on what we can control.
We do this by breaking jealousy down into its different parts, making it easier to deal with.
Rather than ‘thinking’ your feelings and being caught in the merry go round of drama get yourself grounded in your body by feeling your feet on the earth. Breathing helps your body feel safe and you to get more present. Use your mind to scan your body and notice what it is that you’re actually feeling. Allow it to be there, breathe through it. Yes, it can be painful, but accepting it as yours will help you get a handle on it.
Take a look at the thoughts that drive each feeling and see what they’re telling you. See if you can relate to any of the following:
Anger is a feeling of explosive tension and heat in the body, clenched neck & shoulders, with a strong desire to DO something.
Anger related thoughts:
Healthy Anger: “I don’t like this and I want it to change”
Projected anger: “How dare you”, “You’re a bastard/bitch”, “You have no right”
Revenge (aggressive anger): “You hurt me, now I want to hurt you back”
Betrayal: “This is wrong”, “You promised me”
Possessiveness: “She/He is mine and you can’t have them”
Neediness: “I am missing out on my needs being met”
Fear is experienced as butterflies in the solar plexus, a sick churning in the gut, a frozenness with a strong desire to hold on to whatever you can for support.
Fear related thoughts:
Suspicion: “I can’t trust you not to hurt me”
Paranoia: “There is much more going on here than I think/know/am being told”
Envy: “The other is better than me, has something that I don’t” or “I am missing out here”
Insecurity: “I need you, for me to be OK”
Hypervigilance: “To stay in control of myself I must attempt to monitor and control you”
Loss of Control: “I cannot control what is happening”
Powerlessness: “She/He can take you away from me” or “You might leave me”
Abandonment: “I would be lost and could not cope without you”
Sadness feels like a heaviness in the chest, feeling weighed down, wanting to go inside yourself and have a good cry.
Sadness related thoughts:
Grief: “I have lost something that I loved or that I believed was mine” or “I have lost my fairy tale relationship”
Numbness feels like a desire to disappear and hide, a not wanting to be seen.
Shame related thoughts:
Self-Invalidation: “This is happening because there is something wrong with me”, “I am not good enough”
Humiliation: “Others will judge me as lacking”
Guilt feels like being in an emotional straight jacket.
Guilt related thoughts:
“This is happening because I deserve it in some way”
What you can do about Jealousy:
Understand that your pain is real and that you CAN do something about it other than wish it hadn’t happened/wasn’t happening.
Feeling the real feelings as they exist in your body rather than in the story in your head is a great start. Breathing and feeling through your feelings allows you to become more centred. Your feelings cannot literally hurt you, only what you do with them can. Let your hurt in at least a little bit, and allow it to open your heart. This is the gift of jealousy if we welcome it. Sounds weird but it works.
You’ll find your heart is much, much stronger than you’ve ever imagined if you trust it to care for you.
Once you’ve felt the feelings and reconnected with yourself you can address the underlying issues identified within the feelings.
This is how you take control, by being at choice rather than in reaction in your responses:
- Remain connected with yourself and don’t give your power away to your ‘story’. Or to others only too willing to get in on the drama of the situation. Otherwise you’re just abandoning yourself just like your partner has.
- Check whether your suspicions real or imagined (don’t get lost in this step).
- See your partner’s actions as about them, not you.
- See your response as about you, not them.
- Give yourself permission to release your anger in a healthy way eg. pounding pillows, dancing wildly or yelling alone in the car.
- Is there anything you’re avoiding in yourself by giving jealousy its head?
- Is your partner giving you a not so subtle message that you’ve become emotionally unavailable to to them? Without making yourself responsible for your partner’s behaviour can you own your part in this?
- Are there old, unreleased hurts that are being triggered for healing? Feel them.
- Are you feeling a need to control or possess your partner? Where are you feeling out of control or incomplete in yourself?
- Are you clearly asking for your healthy relationship needs to be met?
- Are you giving yourself permission to have fun and create abundance in your own life?
- If you find yourself envying ‘the other one’ in the affair find the gold in yourself that you’re projecting onto them, turning ‘them’ into a gift for yourself ie. do you see them as more sexual, powerful, free, capable than you? Where can you find these part in yourself?
- Can you go underneath your fear, shame and abandonment and find the part of you that is enough, no matter what?
Talk to your partner:
- Own and express your concerns with your partner. Really listen to their response.
- Discuss your relationship agreements about acceptable behaviour around others. If you don’t have any, create some.
- If your partner is treating you poorly set a healthy boundary for yourself about how you would like to be treated.
- If your fears are unfounded own your own jealousy and what strategies you’re putting in place to deal with it. To be jealous is human, to own and deal with it is divine.
To counteract any shame or humiliation find ways to nurture and love yourself, giving yourself the attention you deserve.
If your partner is known to be repeatedly straying outside your relationship and not owning it, or being willing to work with you to heal it it’s different. If you’ve done your own work face the fact that they are unlikely to change and do yourself a favour by moving on. This can be the biggest lesson of all. Otherwise what is this saying about you?
Don’t make jealousy wrong
The vital thing with jealousy is to feel it, and the vulnerability it brings without making it wrong. Take a breath into your jealousy and welcome it in. For if you let it it will open your heart more deeply to parts of yourself you haven’t known before, because jealousy is a powerful heart opener and teacher. See that your jealousy driven stories don’t need to be true.
Know you can be enough in yourself in any circumstances, if you give yourself permission to believe it.