• Jealousy is a normal human emotion, but it can make relationships challenging when it gets out of hand

  • Often associated with low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy are at the root of jealousy

  • If you are struggling with jealous feelings, find a therapist here

This post explores jealousy from two perspectives. The first from the view of the person who experiences feelings of jealousy; and the other from the perspective of a person who feels that they are the recipient of irrational jealousy in the relationship.

Recurring jealousy is a powerful form of insecurity that often results in emotional outbursts and is driven by irrational thought. In relationships, habitual and frequent jealousy is toxic and can eventually rip a good relationship apart.

Do I have a problem with jealousy?

The person who experiences feelings of jealousy may read meanings into the behaviour of their partner, and/or read into the motivations of others toward the partner. You react to what you imagine is happening more than the reality. Instead of concentrating on how you are living your life, you may be increasingly pre-occupied by what your partner might be doing, seeing a threat in people, places and things.

Jealousy is a feeling of insecurity often associated with feeling inadequate, low self-esteem, dependency, and a fear of being abandoned. It may lead us to feel angry when we feel we are not receiving what we expect in a partner. Sometimes we do not question whether these expectations are reasonable and whether our actions are also reasonable.

Even if we feel justified, our reactions do not promote a good way forward for the relationship to flourish. Jealousy can feel all consuming and can leave you feeling exhausted and miserable. In my experience with clients, it is common that people who describe themselves as jealous know on an intellectual level that they are being irrational but feel stuck on how to move forward, often feeling guilty or ashamed of their actions, and continuing to feel insecure. Also, it is common to alternate between blaming their partner for provoking their jealousy and blaming themselves for being unfair towards their partner.

There is a frequent realisation from clients that the behaviour they display could run the risk of fulfilling what they may fear, such as their partner eventually leaving them.

How to overcome jealousy

Counselling may help you to become aware of your feelings in a non-judgemental environment. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may help you work through, and challenge thought processes which trigger feelings such as jealousy. 

Partners on the receiving end of jealousy will, depending on the individual, react differently. In the counselling room, I refer to what I experience as the most common experiences from clients who have a partner who struggles with jealousy. One clear example is modifying behaviour to suit the partner's insecurity. These behavioural modifications might include not going out with friends, turning down invitations you would normally accept and editing what information you offer to your partner with the intention of minimising any reactions in your partner.  Each of these examples reinforce the problem and the latter in particular may lead to further arguments.

You may start to fear the reaction of your partner. You may feel that the relationship is starting to affect your decisions, your self-esteem, and the confidence to have your voice. You may start to avert your eyes to your preferred sex when walking around shopping or in restaurants for the sake of not starting an argument. This isn’t a pleasant place to exist.

Counselling and psychotherapy may offer you support and growth if you are experiencing issues in a relationship increasingly based in insecurity. Find a therapist here.

Tim Potter is a verified welldoing.org therapist in London

Further reading

How negative self-talk can damage relationships

How good relationships boost our health

5 rules for fair fighting in relationships

How to manage anger in relationships