NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Relationships: Overcoming Jealousy

Occasional mild jealousy in a relationship is not unusual. Most of the time, it's not problematic. However, when jealousy and possessiveness become a pervasive part of any relationship, it can jeopardize the relationship creating tension, causing arguments, and leaving both people feeling badly about themselves, each other and the relationship.

Overcoming Jealousy

What is Jealousy?
Jealousy is a negative emotion where there are insecure thoughts and feelings about an anticipated loss of the other person. It is different from envy. Whereas envy usually involves two people ("I'm envious of Mary for earning more money than I do"), jealousy usually involves three people or a triangle ("I feel jealous whenever Mary flirts with my boyfriend").

Why Does Jealousy Occur?
Assuming that there is no cheating involved in the situation and that the jealous person's partner is not actually doing anything to cause the jealousy, jealousy is often an indication that the jealous person is feeling insecure about him or herself and the relationship.

Overcoming Jealousy

Just like any other problem, jealousy is on a continuum from mild jealousy to extreme feelings of jealousy. Needless to say, the more extreme the jealousy, the more challenging a problem it is to try to overcome.

In certain cases, a jealous and possessive person might escalate from arguing to either threats of physical violence or actual violence in an irrational effort to try to control his or her partner.

Physical violence is never acceptable in a relationship, and the person who is being threatened or hit must take steps to protect him or herself, usually by leaving the premises.

Often, people who have a pattern of feeling jealous have grown up feeling insecure. There can be so many individual scenarios as to why people grow up feeling insecure. However, very often the problem originates in their families. It may be that they grew up feeling insecure about one or both parents.

So, for instance, if the mother was emotionally unavailable or unable to bond emotionally with the child, the child grows up feeling insecure as to whether the mother cares or will be able to take care of the child. This is only one example and everyone's personal history of jealousy will be different, but it serves to illustrate that a serious problem with jealousy usually has its roots in the person's family of origin.

What to Do to Overcome Jealousy If You're the Person who is Feeling Jealous
Take a moment to calm yourself, step back from the situation, and ask yourself if there is really anything going on or are your feelings due to your own insecurity.

This can be challenging to do in the heat of the moment, but it can spare you and your partner a lot of bad feelings. If you're able to do this and you realize that nothing is going on, ask yourself what is going on for you in your own internal world that is causing you to feel insecure.

Once you've realized that the problem stems from your own feelings of insecurity, take responsibility for those feelings and talk it out with your partner in that context. If you need occasional reassurance, talk to your partner about this.

If you're unable to calm yourself and especially if you feel yourself going into a rage where you might hit your partner, remove yourself from the situation immediately--go for a walk, go put cold water on your face, call a friend, do something to take yourself out of the situation before you act out. 

If this is what's happening for you, this is a serious problem and you need to get professional help.

What If You're the Partner of the Jealous Person?
Ask yourself if you're doing anything that might be contributing to your partner's problem with jealousy. If you're flirting with other people or allowing others to cross personal boundaries in a way that you know is inappropriate, admit that you have a problem and if you're unable to stop this behavior on your own, get professional help.

If you know you're not acting out and an objective person witnessing the situation would agree with you, talk to your partner about the problem when you're both calm. Remember that physical violence is never acceptable and that you need to protect yourself by removing yourself from any situation where your safety is threatened.

What to Do if You and Your Partner Can't Resolve it between You
If talking it out has not worked and you want to save the relationship, you and your partner can seek professional help from a marriage or couples counselor.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.  

I work with individual adults and couples.  

I have helped many individuals and couples to overcome problems with jealousy.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.