7 Steps You Can Take To Fight Irrational Jealousy

by Emma McGowan

Irrational jealousy is a killer of love. I know this intimately because, for the past couple of years, I’ve battled with jealousy as it tries its damnedest to destroy the love my amazing partner has for me. It rears its ugly head at the weirdest moments and makes me feel like I’m going crazy. I start to loop in my head — Who is he with? Who is he messaging? Why is he laughing like that? Is she more beautiful than I am? — until I’m a mess of repetitive thoughts and, often, tears. It’s really hard for me to admit that I do this because, well, it’s embarrassing. Being irrationally jealous feels weak and silly and, frankly, ridiculous. I am none of those things and yet there are times when I am overwhelming, terribly, horribly jealous. But how can you stop being jealous?

I recently found myself back in the irrational jealousy loop again, working myself up into a state even as I knew that it was completely ridiculous. I was alone and had to work through it by myself, which was probably good because my ever-patient partner has nearly run out of patience with me when I do this. To pull myself out of it, I focused on a specific moment earlier this year when I had one of those, “He is the man for me,” moments. Instead of focusing on the destructive thoughts that were looping in my mind, I pictured that moment as clearly as I could and called on that memory to remind me of just how good he — and we — truly are.

And then I went back to my trashy TV show as a distraction.

So, that was a good first step, if not a fully realized process to get me out of the jealous psycho loop. It got me thinking, though: What are some other methods I can employ when I start going down that destructive path? I refocused that obsessive energy on figuring out how to stop being so jealousy obsessive and this is what I came up with.

1. Recognize The Destructive Thought

When you start looping on a jealous thought, whether it’s about who your partner is talking to or whether they think you’re beautiful, stop and recognize it for what it is: negative and destructive. I like to visualize the thought as a round object in my mind. I put it front and center and “look at it” from all sides so that it’s the clearest thing in my mind.

2. Consciously Place Negative Thoughts Aside

Then I take that little round object and visualize pushing it out of my mind. Sometimes this takes a few tries, especially when I’m in a really bad loop of self-recrimination. The goal is to not only get yourself out of the loop but to actively remove the thought from your brain. It’s definitely easier said than done but it is doable.

3. Refocus On Positives

Once you’ve pushed that negative thought away (or, at least mostly pushed it away), replace it with a positive one. Maybe your partner always brings you little gifts or goes out of their way to pick you up every time you need a ride or just has a great smile when they see you. Focus on that one thing, hard, until the last vestiges of the negative thought is gone. This is what got me out of my crazy loop the other night and brought me back down to normal by the time my partner came home.

4. Stop, Look, Listen, Smell

This is actually something that my boyfriend recommended to me recently when I told him I wanted to work on not focusing on negative thoughts. It’s a military tactic taught to people in combat situations but it works just as well when you’re fighting jealousy. You really just take a few seconds to stop what you’re doing; look around and find something to focus on visually; find a sound to focus on; and do the same thing with a smell. What this does is engage your other senses so that your brain has something external to focus on instead of looping in on itself in perpetuity. It’s a good alternative if you’re not so into the visualizing. (Or just another tool if you are.)

5. Work On Yourself

I’ve realized through all of this that the main reason I get jealous is because I’m not feeling great about myself. My solution has been to start working, start seeking new challenges in my career, and hone my sewing skills. The more things in my life that make me feel better about me — that aren’t my boyfriend — the less jealous I get. That’s because the reality of it all is that the jealousy actually has very little to do with the other person. It really and truly is all about what’s going on inside you so work on you and the jealousy will diminish and, eventually, disappear.

6. Stay Busy!

Along those same lines, I find personally that keeping myself busy also helps. I have a very overactive mind (can you tell?) and I don’t do well with free time. Making sure I have lots of work, social time, and time to work on my hobbies means that my brain is occupied with positive things instead of getting distracted by the negatives.

7. Take Some Time Apart

This is especially relevant for me and my significant other because we not only live together but also work in the same space. Add on the fact that we move to a new country every few months and you can bet that we spend way more time together than the average couple. (I’m assuming most of you have like, separate jobs and at least a few friends that aren’t in common, right? Yeah, we really don’t.) However, even couples leading a more “normal” life than we are often spend too much time together. Spend some time apart — whether that means scheduled evenings where you go out and they don’t or separate vacations — to prove to yourself that there’s nothing to be nervous about.

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Images: Giphy (7); Porsche Brousseau/Flickr