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How to control your jealousy in a relationship

How to control your jealousy in a relationship

Jealousy can be an overwhelming and terrifying emotion – “Othello,” anyone? – with destructive repercussions throughout your life. Like all our normal, healthy human emotions, a little bit is a good thing, but when jealousy gets out of control and becomes your master it can quickly ruin your life.

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Some of the awful consequences of jealousy include snooping and spying (which turn you into a suspicious, mean, secret-police type), uncontrolled anger, physical fighting and abuse, an inability to think clearly, and loss of your own serenity and happiness.

Clearly, you don’t want this green-eyed monster running your life. But how to slay it?

Let Go of Your Jealousy

The best way to let go of jealousy is to focus more on yourself and your own life than on your partner. Expending energy trying to control another independent human being is exhausting and, most of the time, ultimately futile. Concentrate on taking care of yourself, filling your life with rich and rewarding activities, on being or becoming a well-rounded, interesting and attractive person. Let go of your partner and let them take care of themselves.

This may seem crazy to you. After all, you’re in a relationship with this person, two people made into one flesh and all that, so shouldn’t you be paying more attention to them, not less?

It is a paradox, but trust me – if you stay focused on yourself, things will improve. You cannot force your partner not to flirt with other people or see other people, or look at porn, and you certainly can’t get inside their head and change what they think about. Start by accepting that your partner’s innermost thoughts and emotions are, by their very nature, out of your control.

Once you’ve stopped trying to control what your partner thinks and does, you may feel some relief, because it’s a lot of work trying to control someone else. Turn that energy on yourself and your own life.

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Establish Clear Boundaries

Now, I’m not saying you should just let your partner do whatever they want without consequences. Far from it. You are allowed to say whatever you want to your partner. Be clear about that – whatever you want. You may say anything, but then you have to let go of it. Sure, you can say, “I hate it when you flirt with other people.” But then you let it go. You’ve expressed your own feelings honestly, and that’s a healthy thing to do. The unhealthy thing is when you move beyond speaking your truth and into the realm of actually trying to force your partner to change. It won’t work and the frustration will drive you crazy.

Your partner may not change after you say something

That’s out of your control. Someday they may change when you don’t expect it, too. Miracles like that do occur. But not on your schedule, so don’t pin your hopes on your own ability to bully or seduce or wheedle or chivvy your partner into changing their personality.

What do I mean, you may ask, about focusing on yourself? By that I mean you enrich your own personal life, both with your partner and by yourself. You take some interesting classes at your local college, or join a new club or start working out at the gym. Perhaps you take music lessons or buy tickets to the symphony. Volunteer to help the needy, or become a tutor at your local primary school. Helping others who are less fortunate than you is a fantastic way to take your mind off your own problems. You can take a trip or a holiday with your partner, but also without. The point is, you are enjoying your life, living your life, doing things that are fun and interesting, and not giving your partner the sole power to control your happiness.

I know this goes against the romantic-comedy brainwashing we all get constantly from Hollywood and the romance industry. It takes a lot of work to unlearn what you’ve seen in a hundred movies or TV shows. But do yourself a favor and try to see things differently. Yes, you and your partner are together in a relationship. Yes, you are important to each other, perhaps incredibly important. But you are also grown ups, and you know enough to understand that real life ain’t a movie.

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If you give into crazy jealousy, you will become an uglier person – I don’t mean physically, though you could get more wrinkles from too much scowling. You won’t be very attractive or fun to be around if you become a nagging, jealous shrew. This can become a vicious vortex, sucking you down, down, down. However, if you work hard to change your attitude, to let go of your futile attempts to control your partner, you will be happier. Focus on yourself, on improving your own life, and you will become a more interesting and attractive human being. Then perhaps your partner will see the error of their ways, or if you end up dumping them because they don’t change, you’ll be ready to meet someone new who treats you better.

Let me be clear

I don’t expect you to be able to just stop feeling jealousy. You’re a human being, and you have lots of emotions and that’s OK. But I hope to convince you to change the way you act based on your jealousy. By all means, express your feelings to your partner, as I’ve said above. But express it in a healthy, helpful way, with words, not with tantrums and breaking dishes or whatever. Don’t express it by going through your partner’s stuff looking for “proof” so you can enjoy a “gotcha!” moment. Proving you were “right” about your partner’s actions is not the foundation on which to build your happiness. Better to be happy because you learned to sail or play an instrument or cook French cusine or because you read War and Peace or helped a child learn to read.

I am also not saying you shouldn’t have boundaries around your partner’s behavior. Not at all. You should. Decide for yourself how much is too much. Decide how much flirting your partner can engage in before you call it quits. But don’t use this decision in an ultimatum to try and bully your partner. That’s crossing the line back into trying to control them. That way lies madness.

If you’re struggling to know where you stand or what’s reasonable to ask of your partner, get in touch and book a one-on-one coaching session with me. I’m here to give you sound, objective advice that will help you sort the suspicion from the self-doubt and get you feeling in control of your emotions, and your well-being, again.