How Do You Deal With Jealousy In A Relationship? The Best Way To Handle 7 Types Of Envy, According To Experts
As someone in her first serious relationship, one thing that's taken me by surprise is the different ways jealousy has manifested itself in my relationship. Even if you don't consider yourself a particularly jealous person, when you're in a relationship, it's inevitable that you'll experience bouts of jealousy from time to time, whether it's rational or irrational. Figuring out how to deal with jealousy in a relationship is no easy task, but the first step is realizing that jealousy is a totally normal emotion — and it doesn't come in only one form.
"Jealousy isn't necessarily bad, rather it signals to you that your emotional needs or feelings may be unmet," Samantha Burns, Couples Counselor and Dating Coach at Love Successfully, tells Bustle. "Whether you're seeking security and validation from your partner, or wanting to know that you are a top priority, it's important to determine what the underlying reason is for your jealousy. Before you let the green eyed monster completely take over, ask yourself what you can sort through and emotionally manage on your own, then once you're clear on your needs, communicate with your partner directly. In a healthy relationship, your partner shouldn't fire back with insults or make you feel more crazy, jealous or insecure. Rather, he or she should listen, try to understand, and validate or reassure you."
When most people think of a "jealous partner," they probably envision someone who's paranoid about their significant other cheating on them or otherwise betraying them. But in reality, romantic and sexual jealousy are only part of the equation — here are seven different types of jealousy that might pop up in your relationship, plus expert tips on how to handle those feelings.
1. If You're Jealous Because Your Partner Has It Easier
When life gets tough, it's understandable to feel a little resentful of those around you who you feel are doing "better" than you. But being jealous because your partner seems to have it easier than you isn't healthy — because partners should support each other's successes, not feel threatened by them.
"This [type of jealousy] is common when partners come from different backgrounds, are in different financial circumstances, or have different types of accomplishments," Jonathan Bennett, Relationship/Dating Coach and Owner of The Popular Man, tells Bustle. "It's easy to get jealous and resentful thinking they had it easy when you had to work for everything."
How to deal: "You have to remember that your partner's fortunate situation is ultimately a positive," Bennett says. "Unless he or she is snobby or lacking in generosity, you benefit. In addition, accomplishments are attractive."
2. If You're Jealous Because You Feel Less Attractive
Even the most confident people experience moments of doubt and insecurity, especially when it comes to a subject as sensitive as feeling attractive to your partner.
"If you have feelings of insecurity or think your partner is more attractive, it can be easy to get jealous," Bennett says. "This is especially true if he or she is around other physically attractive people a lot. You might feel like eventually your partner will leave you for someone else who is better looking."
How to deal: First off, looks are certainly not everything — there is so much more to attraction and a relationship — and they should absolutely not have you feeling like you're not good enough for them. "You have to remember that, regardless of your fears, your partner has likely been attractive for years and gotten attention," Bennett says. "And, in spite of this, he or she chose you over the other options. That says a lot about you and your partner's commitment to you."
3. If You're Jealous When Your Partner Goes Out With Friends
Healthy, independent couples know that each partner needs to spend time with their friends... and sometimes without their partner present. But even if you know and accept that your partner should have a social life separate from you, that doesn't mean the thought of not being invited somewhere will sting any less.
"There are times that you'll have your separate lives," Bennett says. "But those can be occasions of jealousy, especially if your partner goes out without you and you're stuck somewhere, like at work."
How To Deal: "At these moments, you just have to trust your partner and remember that it's normal and healthy to spend time separately," Bennett says. "As long as your partner isn't acting suspiciously, let him or her be happy."
4. If You're Jealous Of Your Partner Getting Social Media Attention
Whether you're ready to admit it or not, social media plays a huge role in modern relationships. You might think you're "too mature" to feel jealous over something as innocent as an Instagram like, but sometimes, our partner's social media interactions can cause us to feel a little envious.
"One major source of jealousy is social media attention your partner might receive," Bennett says. "This feeling of jealousy is natural since it's hard to watch attractive people constantly comment on and like the statuses and photos of the person you love."
How to deal: "Just remember that your partner can't help it that others find him or her interesting and charming," Bennett says. "As long as there is nothing inappropriate or suspicious, take it as a compliment that other people want to interact on social media with the person who chose to be with you!"
5. If You're Jealous Of Your Partner's Work Success
For most young adults, professional and financial success (and failure) is a very touchy subject. If you've been having a less-than-stellar time in your career, it's normal to feel slightly resentful of your partner for their relative success... but it's not healthy to internalize those feelings of inferiority and let them stand in the way of your own success.
"This type of jealousy is about a 'missed' promotion, salary level, or other work-related issue," Clarissa Silva, Behavioral Scientist and author of relationship blog YOU'RE JUST A DUMBASS, tells Bustle. "The underlying issues [for] the money-related jealousy are financial insecurity and feelings of superiority. The underlying issues for co-worker jealousy is resentment. They resent that you are spending quality time with others instead of you."
How to deal: If you're truly partners in life, you should be thrilled that your partner is achieving success — because that just puts the both of you in a better position for the future.
6. If You're Jealous Of Your Partner's Family Dynamic
Not everyone comes from a picture-perfect family and has a carefree, privileged childhood — and if your own family dynamic is lacking in some way, it can feel like a slap in the face if your partner's family is relatively problem-free.
"Sibling rivalry is one trademark characteristic of this type of jealousy," Silva says. "But, it can also manifest as jealousy of your partner’s family dynamic. If your family dynamic is different and less emotionally supportive, you create this defense to buffer your own family dynamic."
How to deal: Realize that your family and upbringing doesn't define you, and nor does your partner's. You can't blame your partner for something they can't change about themselves. Instead, examine your relationships with your own family to figure out what is troubling you — maybe you need to cut out someone toxic or simply have a long overdue talk with an estranged family member. Either way, remember that you're part of your partner's family now, so you should nurture those relationships, too.
7. If You're Experiencing Sexual/Romantic Jealousy
Although it's not the only kind of jealousy, romantic jealousy is still something that many couples experience, but the fact that it's common unfortunately doesn't make it any easier to navigate, even for the strongest of couples.
"When experiencing romantic jealousy, the underlying issue here is both emotional and sexual infidelity that stem from insecurities with yourself," Silva says. "Insecurities are created from past experiences that could be from childhood, past relationships, former marriages, any life event that made you feel you were less than what you really are."
How to deal: Let go of the notion that you're not good enough, and stop comparing yourself to others in your partner's life, from exes to coworkers to random flirty strangers. "When you compare yourself to others, you are already working from a deficit perspective and wonder why everyone else seems to get what they want, yet you don’t," Silva says. Don't let jealous thoughts have power over you: remember that your partner chose you — and no one else.
How To Deal With Any Type Of Jealousy
Obviously, jealousy is too nuanced an emotion to predict every scenario in which you might feel jealousy in your relationship. But the next time any unexpected jealousy is gnawing at you, just take some time to reflect on why you might be feeling these emotions.
"I suggest asking yourself a few of these questions when you feel any type of jealousy," Silva says. "Do you prioritize others over yourself? Do you tell yourself the truth? Do you accept the past or do you ruminate about it? Do you blame others (parents, ex-partner/spouse) for your past failures? Do you follow your gut the majority of the time? Do you carve out “me” time consistently? Do you have feelings of not being worthy of what you really want?"
If you're honest with yourself, you'll be able to figure out the root cause of your jealousy. After that, all that's left to do is communicate with your partner about your feelings and work to come up with a solution as a team — because real partnership is all about helping each other through the difficult stuff.