Yesterday, I had someone reach out to me on Instagram to ask if I have any videos about jealousy in relationships. I have over 1,200 videos on my YouTube channel, so I’m sure I have some videos on jealousy, but I like connecting with people and having one-on-one discussions. I make it a goal to have at least one conversation with someone from my audience each day, and we had a good conversation about jealousy, and I thought it’d also be great to discuss with everyone because it’s something all of us can relate to. What we’ll discover by the end of this is that jealousy is our problem and not our partner’s.
Stop Living in Fear
The first thing we need to realize is that jealousy is rooted in fear. Hell, if we’re being honest, 99.9% of our mental health problems are fear-based. Think about it for a second. Just take a few seconds to think about every problem you’re facing and acknowledge that there’s a fear attached to it.
The reason this is so important is because we think we have an endless amount of problems, and that can be overwhelming. Once we acknowledge that most of these challenges we’re facing have to do with fear, we don’t have to deal with all of these separate problems, we just have to start dealing with our fear.
When it comes to jealousy, here are some fears off the top of my head that you might be able to relate to if you’re being honest with yourself.
- Fear of being alone
- Fear of not being good enough
- Fear of not being attractive enough
- Fear of being lied to
- Fear of having a broken heart
You might be able to add to this list, but this is some of what’s going on when jealousy strikes. The problem with this is that it causes us to have emotions that lead to unwarranted actions. When we’re jealous, we become sad, angry and afraid. This can lead us to argue or fight with our significant other, or we just start crying and start telling them all about our insecurities, and we can look like a crazy person.
What’s nuts about this is that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our jealousy is because we’re worried they’re going to leave us for someone else, but when we’re living in fear and acting irrational, it pushes them away. We may end up self-sabotaging our relationship based on our jealousy, and when they leave us (for completely justified reasons because we were acting bonkers), we then think, “Ah-ha! I knew it! I had a right to be afraid of them leaving me!”
The reality is that we pushed them away. Day by day because of our fears, we chiseled away at our relationships until they had enough. Look back at your previous relationships and ask if this might have happened. If you’re currently in a relationship, realize that it’s time to start working on this.
We Have to Learn to Love Ourselves
There’s often a “chicken or egg” discussion around learning to love yourself. Some say that you need to love yourself before you can love someone else, but there are many who believe you can’t love yourself until someone else loves you. From my experience, the former is what we need to work on. For many years, I hated myself, and self-love is still something I work on to this day.
When we don’t love ourselves, our fears take over. Again, this is our problem and not our partner’s problem. If we don’t think we’re good enough or attractive enough, it fuels our jealousy. Our negative self-talk can’t comprehend why this person would stay with us when there are billions of better options on planet earth.
Self-love doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes a lot of work, but you’re the only one who can work on it. I started developing more self-love when I gained acceptance and an internal locus of control. First, I had to accept that this is the body that I was given at birth, and there’s only so much I can do with it. No matter how much weight I lose, or if I decided to get plastic surgery, it’s still my body for the rest of my life.
The more important part of my self-love journey was developing an internal locus of control. To put it simply, the psychology of an internal locus of control is believing that you have control over what happens in your life.
I got to a place where I realized if there’s anything I don’t like about myself, it’s my choice if I want to change it. If I don’t like how much I weigh, I can start eating better and go to the gym. If I don’t like how crazy I am, I can make my mental health a top priority. If my personality sucks, I can figure out ways to work on that as well. If I want to love myself, it has to be an inside job and no external factor can make me love myself.
I first started developing self-love when I got sober and gained a great support group. I suggest you surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally as well. I also highly suggest this book Real Love by Sharon Salzberg because it’s the best book on relationships I’ve ever read, and it starts out by learning how to love yourself and then branches out into how to love others. Lastly, I recommend working with a therapist if you have the resources to do so because they can help you challenge your irrational thought patterns and recognize your fears.
Start Thinking Rationally
None of us would ever sit there and simply say, “Yeah. I’m a completely irrational person.” Our brains actually trick us into thinking we’re being completely rational and logical in situations even when we’ve gone off the rails. One of my favorite authors, Jonathan Haidt, calls this our “inner lawyer”, and it’s constantly fighting for our ideas. The problem is that when we believe our irrational ideas, we cause a lot of toxic thought patterns, and these can lead to us doing things that we’ll regret or hurt us in the long-term
Quick note. I highly recommend you read the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
- “If they leave me, I wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
- “If they go out without me, it means they’re flirting with other people.”
- “They mustn’t ever think anyone else is attractive besides me.”
. I think everyone should read this book because if nothing else, it’ll help you start to accept the fact that none of us are as rational as we think we are, and self-awareness is the first step.
When we’re caught up in jealousy, we have a slew of irrational thoughts that are causing us a lot of problems. Some of the thoughts we might have include:
- “If they left me, that’d be awful, but I could handle it. It might take me time to overcome the sadness of the breakup, but I’ve dealt with much worse in my life.”
- “Right now, I’m assuming the worst, and relationships are based in trust. Just because they’re not with me doesn’t mean they’re flirting with other people. They might be talking to other people, but that doesn’t mean they’re flirting.”
- “If they find someone else attractive, that’s completely normal. They’re with me and nobody else. Hell, I find other people attractive and don’t act on it because I love my partner.”
If you can relate to any of this, I have some great news for you. There was this amazing psychologist named Albert Ellis who came up with something called Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), and it’s one of my new favorite forms of therapy. The entire therapy is based around challenging your irrational thoughts and beliefs.
What REBT does is help you take your irrational beliefs, and think about them in a new, rational way. Let’s take a look at the examples above and how we can REBT ‘em.
When I learned about REBT, I told my therapist that I really liked it, and now she helps me look at situations using the REBT method. For those who don’t have the resources for therapy or don’t have a therapist, don’t worry. Albert Ellis wrote a ton of books on REBT, and that’s how I initially learned about it. Each book gives you some great real-life examples, and each chapter ends with exercises you can start working on. The two I recommend are How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything and How to Keep People from Pushing Your Buttons.
Don’t Blame Your Current Partner for Your Past
Our “inner lawyer” has great intentions, and it rationalizes our whacky thoughts because it’s trying to protect us. You might be like me and have been cheated on in the past. Maybe one or more of your exes didn’t cheat on you physically, but they cheated on you emotionally. It’s also possible that you’ve been in a bunch of toxic relationships.
What we need to realize is that this is not our current partner’s problem.
It’s completely unfair to put our old baggage on our new partner, and again, that can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. In my opinion, cheating is never acceptable. If you want to be with someone else, have the decency to break up with someone first. But, I also learned to take a look at my part in every situation, and if I’m constantly harassing my partner about possibly cheating on me because I’ve been cheated on in the past, I just might push them to cheat on me.
More importantly, we need to have some empathy. One of the ways I was able to stop making my current partner deal with my BS from previous relationships is to ask myself if I’d want them to do the same. Would I want them to blame me for what their ex did? Of course not. So if I love them, why would I do that to them?
It’s also very possible that your current partner is just like your ex. Many of us subconsciously keep dating the same type of person, and we’re confused as to why we keep getting our heartbroken. This was how my life was for many years, and it’s something I needed to overcome, and now I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in.
If you struggle with dating the wrong type of people, watch this video I did a while back Why You Date Who You Date.
You Might be Dating an Asshole
I want to end this by saying that you might be dating an asshole. It’s very well possible that your jealousy is completely justified, and you’re not acting irrationally. You might actually be in a relationship with someone who is gaslighting you to cover up their shitty behavior, and that’s not cool.
If you’re with someone who is regularly flirting with other people and talking to people behind your back in a flirtatious way, you don’t need to put up with it. In order to figure out if you’re acting irrational, I recommend talking to your therapist to see if your jealousy is justified. Another good option is to ask your friends or loved ones what their thoughts are (but don’t talk to your crazy friend because they might just fuel your irrational beliefs).
Sometimes jealousy is completely justified, but if you got this far in reading, there’s a good chance you’ve realized that your jealousy is causing a problem. The great news is that you now have a bunch of tools at your disposal to work on these things to strengthen your relationship and overcome these obstacles. As long as you continue to remember that your jealousy issues are yours and yours alone to work on, you’ll start heading in the right direction.
If you’re looking for affordable therapy from the comfort of your own home, I personally use BetterHelp online therapy. I have a badass therapist, and I highly recommend this easy-to-use service. By clicking here to sign up, it helps support the work I do as well.
Originally published at https://www.therewiredsoul.com on November 6, 2019.