Jealousy In Marriage: What Is Healthy And What Is Not?
Jealousy affects every marriage at some point or another. In fact, nearly one-third of all couples say jealousy is a problem, but there are two types of jealousy. In examining both, you'll need to take a look or two in the mirror.
Jealousy is a perfectly natural emotion. In fact, everyone experiences jealousy at some point in their lives. But, there's a problem when your jealousy moves from a healthy emotion to something unhealthy and irrational. Jealousy in marriage is one of the most powerful emotions you can feel in a relationship; and, if you’re not careful, it can rage completely out of control and do irreparable harm. The feelings of jealousy and possessiveness are hard-wired into our survival instinct; so the fear of losing your mate can trigger that. But jealousy can be good for your marriage, and we'll tell you how. But first, what is jealousy in marriage?
What Is Jealousy In Marriage?
Jealousy in marriage is how some married people react to a threat they perceive - real or imagined—to their relationship. Jealousy is an issue in one-third of all couples receiving marriage counseling, according to an American survey of marriage counselors.
“For most people, jealousy is fear of their partner leaving or being taken away,” says Aricia Shaffer, MSE, coach, counselor and author of The Timeshare. “This is misplaced, however, because your partner has free will. They can come and go as they please. And if they know they have that choice, they’re actually more likely to stay.”
There’s no reason to believe that jealousy will improve with time. It's not an emotion that you banish with wishful thinking, because it has deep roots that stem from your very core. It takes awareness and effort to overcome jealous feelings.
A little jealousy can be reassuring to your partner. But a lot of jealousy is overwhelming and scary; mostly because it leads to dangerous behaviours like stalking, digital dating violence, and even physical abuse.
Healthy Jealousy vs. Unhealthy Jealousy In Relationships
Occasionally, mild expressions of jealousy are natural and can keep a relationship alive. But when your expressions become intense or irrational, they can seriously damage your marriage. In relationships where feelings of jealousy are mild and occasional, these feelings remind couples not to take each other for granted.
Jealousy also can motivate you to appreciate one another; making a conscious effort to make sure your partner feels valued. Also, jealousy heightens your emotions, making love feel stronger and sex more passionate. In cute little dozes, jealousy can be a positive force in your marriage.
But when jealousy is intense or irrational, the story is very different. Often, excessive jealousy is a warning sign of a potentially abusive relationship. Eventually, jealous people feel so overwhelmed by their emotions and insecurities that they will begin to exert control over their partners. They may even resort to violence, financial abuse, and verbal bullying in order to maintain control and alleviate or mask their jealous feelings.
Signs of Unhealthy Jealousy In A Marriage
When a healthy marriage experiences jealousy, it comes from a place of protection. One person sees a potential threat to the marriage and expresses concern or jealousy. Together, you can discuss the issue rationally and come to an agreement on the way forward. It means you are both committed to your marriage, and are not insecure about who you are as individuals.
But unhealthy jealousy has its roots in fear. Fear of loss, abandonment and worry about not being truly loved. Here are some features of unhealthy jealousy:
- excessively questioning your partner's behaviour and motives
- demanding to know where your partner has been
- texting your partner non-stop when you're apart
- reading emails and texts or listening to voicemails expecting to discover infidelity or a lie
- displaying unusual insecurity and fear
- being paranoid about what your partner is doing or feeling
- engaging in storytelling and making accusations that are not true
- following or stalking a partner to confirm whereabouts
- infringing on your partner's freedom or refusing them to visit friends or family
What Causes Jealousy In Relationships?
People who struggle with jealousy experience several emotions including fear; anger, grief, worry, sadness, doubt, pain, self-pity, and humiliation. Sometimes, they may also struggle with a sense of failure, feel suspicious, or feel threatened. Many factors can cause jealousy in marriage; but some possible reasons include:
- Having unrealistic expectations about marriage in general
- Maintaining unrealistic expectations of your spouse
- Having a misguided sense of ownership over your spouse
- Reliving a hurtful experience of abandonment in the past
- Being insecure or having a poor self-image
- Fearing abandonment or betrayal
- Worrying about losing someone or something important to you
- Feeling intense possessiveness or a desire for control
How to Handle Jealousy in Marriage
If your marriage is experiencing jealousy issues, it is important to address it before it gets out of hand. Here are some tips for handling jealousy in a healthy way.
There will be people and situations that threaten the security of your marriage, for example, a flirtatious co-worker or a job that requires a lot of travel. Here, it is normal to experience a little bit of jealousy. The important thing is that you take time to talk about your concerns; then agree on some boundaries that will protect your marriage and your hearts.
When your partner is feeling jealous on a consistent basis, it is important to find out why. Is your partner feeling insecure because you are not spending much time together as a couple? Or, does your marriage have trust issues due to infidelity? Try to understand where the jealousy is coming from and what you can do to get rid of it.
One of the best ways to guard against jealousy is to create an atmosphere of trust. This begins with both partners being trustworthy. In other words, they are faithful, committed, and honest. Trustworthy people do not lie about how they are spending their time. They also do not cheat on their spouses. If you both guard against these pitfalls, the trust in the relationship will grow and crowd out jealousy.
More Tips On Handling Jealousy In Relationships
Find ways to spend time together and bond. A marriage is more than just living together and sharing a bed. It involves showing affection, spending time together, and building an attachment to one another. What's more, any threats to your attachment should be a cause for concern. Jealousy is appropriate when it is a signal that the marriage is at risk.
Jealousy in response to a real threat to the relationship is normal. But, if one partner is jealous for no reason, this could be a red flag especially if the jealousy includes extreme anger, unrealistic expectations, and unfounded accusations.
If you find yourself responding with "I was only..." or "I was just..." to questions on a regular basis, that is a red flag. You need to get help right away before things spiral out of control.