Coping techniques: Jealousy

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.
The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

1.   Jealousy is a normal human emotion. It isn’t “wrong” or something to stigmatize yourself or others over. However when the feeling of jealousy is continuous, or creates difficulties for you in your relationships, then it can be a problem. Therefore it can be useful to develop some coping skills for it, to diminish its impact in your life.

2.   While jealousy is a normal human emotion, it’s not love or an expression of love, but insecurity.

3.   Claim your feelings. This means acknowledging that you feel jealous. It also means taking responsibility for your own feelings. Say “I feel jealous” rather than “You made me feel jealous.”

4.   Make use of “I” statements when talking about your feelings to your partner.

5.   Consider that the situation that looks one way to you may look entirely different to your partner. Interpreting events is a subjective practice. The interpretation depends on the individual doing the interpreting.

6.   Although it sounds counterintuitive, begin to act as if you trust your partner, even if this isn’t the case. This means acting as if you believe them when they tell you they’re going to be late because of work, or that someone is only a friend, or that they love you. Also in terms of actions, if you habitually follow your partner or check their emails, texts or phone call and Internet histories, consider stopping these behaviors.

7.   Interrupt yourself when you notice that you’re comparing yourself to other people. One of the drivers of jealousy is low levels of self-esteem. Whatever quality, appearance, trait or skill you possess there will always be someone who has more of that, and someone who has less. The value of human life—including yours—is not determined by such things. Consider that we are ensouled beings, not objects.

8.   Notice the things you say to or about yourself, and how these might maintain feelings of low self-esteem. If you tell yourself that you are unlovable, it’s easy to see how this could give rise to and maintain jealous feelings. Think of the times in your life when you have felt loved. Deliberately spend time with those thoughts. Cultivate them as you would a garden. Tell yourself that you are lovable.

9.   Because we aren’t consumer items or objects of any sort, it might be useful to reconsider whether or not we can own or absolutely control one another. Jealousy often tells us to forbid our loved ones to talk with other people, be out past a certain hour, to check in with us several times a day, to be accountable to us for all their comings and goings. These are attempts to impose ownership, and therefore unrealistically high levels of control, on another person.

10.               Begin to differentiate between your fantasies and reality. Yes, you might imagine that your partner is with someone else, and as you imagine this in detail you feel increasingly upset. Notice that you’re responding to a fantasy, a mental image of your own creation, much in the same way as you might respond to a novel or movie. Your feelings are real—they really impact your thoughts and even your behaviors. But they’re not in response to something that’s true. Remind yourself of this.

11.               Notice when you have begun to ruminate on thoughts and scenarios about jealousy. Rumination is a form of thinking that repeats—while thinking is linear and goes from one point to another, rumination is a circle, and each repetition of that circle intensifies the feelings associated to it. Interrupt rumination. Acknowledged that it’s occurring, and then interrupt it without attempting to bring it to any type of conclusion. Change your activity to support this. This could be going for a walk, calling a friend, putting on your favorite song or exercising.

12.               Another driver for jealousy is fear of loss, sometimes called insecure attachment. While it may sound harsh, remind yourself that all of us will die someday and therefore—in this life, at any rate—all of our relationships are time-limited. Loss is not unusual but built into all relationships.

13.               Another of these drivers is an overestimation of your partner in terms of power they have over you. They appear to be of absolute importance and necessity, so that it might seem as if you couldn’t survive their leaving. They might appear to be holding all the cards—they can decide to leave you for someone else, and again such an event seems like it couldn’t be survived. There was a time in your life when you would not have been able to survive being abandoned, when your loved one literally had the power to keep you alive or let you die. That was when you were an infant, and a very young child. It is no longer the case. Your life does not depend on any other person. Remind yourself of this fact. Possibly when you’re driving to work. Or making yourself something to eat. Or buying yourself a pair of shoes. When you are engaging in activities that support your health and wellbeing it can be useful to remind yourself that you are the one you depend on.

14.               Consider that the drivers for jealousy—fear of abandonment, fear that you will not be able to survive loss, low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness—have a history in your life. When did you first experience these things? What triggers their memory?

15.               Become familiar with the triggers for jealous ideation. When and where are you likely to encounter such triggers? When entering those situations remind yourself that you are.

16.               Make an intention to decrease the amount of trouble in your life. Monitor your feelings and behaviors when you’re experiencing jealousy. If you notice yourself becoming overwhelmed or getting ready to act out violently, end the encounter and leave in order to keep your partner—and yourself—safe.