How to deal with a jealous partner
Seeing beyond the green-eyed monster
What do you do when your partner’s jealousy is threatening to destroy your relationship?
You might be in a relatively happy relationship – maybe it’s not without its occasional difficulties and challenges, but generally things seem to be just fine.
But then slowly, a darker side to it all begins to reveal itself...
Your partner starts acting strangely. You feel as though he/she doesn’t trust you. They begin to question your whereabouts, who you’re spending time with and what you’re doing.
At first, maybe you don’t mind too much because it seems like your partner is just demonstrating concern. But somewhere along the way you to begin to feel increasingly uneasy about the seemingly harmless questions. It's as if you always have to explain yourself.
And then suddenly, you have to bear the brunt of unfounded accusations.
Signs of jealousy
You might feel:
- that your partner is distancing himself/herself from you, or
- maybe just the opposite - that your partner’s mere presence starts to stifle you
- that you find yourself unable to do the things you used to do, out of fear that he/she may disapprove.
Your relationship might have changed. It can become not just constraining but tiring too. It also hurts when it seems your explanations no longer suffice – especially when you feel you aren’t doing anything wrong. (If you did do something detrimental to a healthy relationship then there’s advice in here for you too.)
Other signs of jealousy and mistrust
Your partner may also...
- want to be seen as 'protective', but to you it feels like possessiveness;
- seem vigilant and anxious;
- be intolerant;
- be demanding of your attention;
- seem begrudging of anything you do.
Well, the boundaries between what is understandable and acceptable under certain circumstances and what is outright abusive behaviour can be blurred.
Gender differences in jealousy
Studies show that men and women feel jealous for rather different reasons. Men feel more intense feelings of jealousy if there is physical intimacy – especially sexual relations – between their partner and someone else.
On the other hand, women (in general) are more hurt when they discover emotional intimacy between their partner and someone else.
Ultimately, any form of betrayal causes pain. When a partner's affair is discovered, that pain is only part of the emotional trauma for the betrayed partner.
What if you're totally committed and their jealousy seems uncalled for and irrational?
Maybe your partner has always been somewhat jealous. Maybe as a child his or her essential emotional needs weren't met. Perhaps they have low self-esteem, have experienced troubled relationships, have been let down by a previous partner, or feel they're lacking in some way.
Your partner may, in their own way, be trying to cope with their feelings of jealousy. In the process, unfortunately, their behaviour may have become counterproductive. It's almost as if they're setting themselves up to be rejected (again).
It’s important that you’re able to reassure them that you’re in it for the long haul. Unless you're beginning to have doubts about your relationship.
Before you give up, let's see if I can help you deal with and solve the problems.
But, first of all - just in case...
Have you betrayed your partner in any way?
If by any chance you've been unfaithful, I want you to know that I'm not judging you. I don't want you to be hard on yourself either; what's done is done - it matters only how you recover the situation now.
So, let's start by naming what might have happened.
What does infidelity really mean? Cheating doesn't have to be a full-blown relationship with someone else. Let's see how your partner may perceive what's happened...
One or both of you may think these things are benign - if not entirely harmless - but they can all add up for your partner (or for you).
Expect your partner to be somewhat jealous and vigilant if they've discovered any sort of betrayal in the last few day, weeks, or even several months/years ago. But with much reassurance you should slowly begin to notice an increase of trust, and the return of a stable mood and contentment. Much will depend on your attitude though!
If the betrayal happened many moons ago, and your partner doesn't appear to have got over that yet, it's time to seek help.
It's unlikely now that you'll bring about a change in your relationship without the guidance of a professional. To find out how easy it is these days to connect with a professional therapist, hop over to my page on online relationship advice.
When trust has been broken
If you've broken your partner's trust - in whatever way - keep the following in mind:
- Trust can be won back, but it takes time and effort on the part of the one who broke the trust to help mend what was broken. Is that you? See: Surviving infidelity.
- There will be days when it seems the worst is over, but there will also be times that the pain is a little more acute. During those times, your partner will appreciate the warmth of your presence and your reassurance.
- Yes, it may feel like you're going through hell while the healing stage is happening, but it won’t last forever. Be patient. The best times might still be ahead of you! See: Getting over an affair and staying together.
- Your partner clearly cares deeply about you. That’s why he/she is still with you even if you hurt him/her. That should say a lot about your partner’s strength of character and commitment to love you even in the face of difficulty.
Again, staying in the relationship is a choice that you and your partner will have to make. Studies show that couples (especially married ones) who survive an affair end up stronger after the test to their relationship, as explained in this video. If you are one of those couples there can be a light at the end of the tunnel, and I sincerely hope that you'll be able to work things out.
Read on to learn what else you can do to help your partner cope with feelings of jealousy..
What your partner might be thinking
Whether or not it's as a result of anything you may or may not have done, here's what might be underlying your partner's jealousy:
- I am not worthy of love; I have not done enough; I don't mean enough; I am not handsome/pretty/intelligent/warm/loving/sexy/etc enough.
- Someone or something else means/meant more.
- My partner doesn't love me or truly want me (anymore).
- His or her words of reassurance don't sound real, I'm not sure they mean it.
- They may change their mind any time, even if they want to stay with me.
- I need him or her more than ever, but I'm frightened of sounding needy.
- I don't know how to be, behave, speak or dress, I don't know who I am anymore.
What you can do to help your partner deal with their jealousy
You cannot change your partner or spouse. You cannot heal them, you cannot stop them feeling jealous.
Jealousy is a complicated emotion, often stemming from past hurts and feelings of scarcity. It may be that there was little love going around in their family, but it can also be that they were spoiled and have been left with an unfortunate sense of entitlement.
It's only the sufferer who ultimately can overcome their resentments. If your partner has a fragile sense of self, they are ultimately responsible for building up their inner strength. You can't be your partner’s only source of external validation and appreciation. You cannot 'make' them feel better - the effect of your reassurance will be short-lived and counterproductive in the longer run. Only their own efforts can lead to a lasting change.
You can work together though on building a more rewarding relationship by keeping the focus on the positives. See my Loving Communication Kit for Couples.
10 ways to help your partner deal with feelings of jealousy
1. Show understanding for their jealousy
- if you have been unfaithful in the past. They'll still be on the lookout for signs of infidelity long after your misdemeanour. Heterosexual men in particular feel far more threatened by sexual infidelity as opposed to emotional infidelity. Heterosexual women are more likely to be perturbed by emotional infidelity. There's little difference between the two in bisexual men and women and gay men and lesbian women*.
2. Suggest they seek help.
Having to rely on keeping you 'chained' just to get a sense of peace and security is not healthy. Suggest they connect with an online therapist in a non-accusatory manner and not as a 'punishment' or when you're angry. Don't try to force the issue - allow your partner to make the choice in their own time.
3. Avoid deliberately hurting him or her
- just to get your own back.
4. Reassure gently but firmly
- no lengthy defensive explanations. A short clear statement should suffice, when your partner appears unreasonable. I understand if you get a little exasperated at times but a little love goes a long way.
5. Hold on to your boundaries, values and beliefs
- in your attempts to reassure your partner.
6. Mention your partner’s good qualities
- in conversation with others. Never let them down in the company of other people. If there are opportunities, do it in front of them so that they will know just how much you value them.
7. Appreciate the little things
- as well as those aspects of your relationship that are really important to you. In other words - don't forget to count your blessings.
8. Write a gratitude list
- of aspects in your relationship that are priceless, and your partner's characteristics that mean the most to you. Make sure to communicate your appreciation to your partner twice as much as you communicate your complaints.
9. Be honest, transparent and upfront
- if you feel that your relationship is no longer your number one priority - for whatever reason. Avoid feeding into your partner's jealous nature by withdrawing and being illusive. Give yourselves the opportunity to work things out.
10. Do not bother
- with any of these points if you are in an abusive relationship. Seek help yourself.
I sincerely hope that this article has given you hope, and some strategies to help you overcome your difficulties right now :-)
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