Breaking Free from Jealousy in Marriage

The Struggle of Jealousy in Marriage

I still remember the first time I felt jealous in my marriage. It was hardly a whole feeling yet … just a twinge in my gut subconsciously alerting me to protect my relationship with someone I adore.

At the time, the feeling was innocent and easy to move past because the perceived “threat” was totally in my head. The thing is, teensy moments of jealousy in our relationships can be totally normal. It’s crucial, though, to do some soul searching and recognize where this jealousy is coming from.

If left untamed, excessive jealousy can eventually erode the very relationship that we desire to safeguard.

So today, with an iced coffee in hand, I’m going to get a little vulnerable and share what I’ve learned about how to get over jealousy.

A wife experiences jealousy after watching her spouse interact with others | The Dating Divas
A spouse feeling jealous while watching her husband interact with another woman.

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how to stop being jealous: is my jealousy bad?

Excessive jealousy can be described as distressed and flustered worry.

Have you ever felt these feelings in your relationship? I know I totally have. Feeling jealous or protective of your spouse and your relationship can be totally normal and even healthy in small amounts. Focus on the Family describes the benefits of jealousy when it has been refined and examined, revealing that:

Healthy jealousy guards the heart of a marriage because it:

1. Shows your commitment to the relationship

2. Protects your marriage by safeguarding the relationship against {potential external interferences}

3. Deepens your openness with each other and makes you accountable through honest communication

4. Helps you confront major threats to your marriage and head them off before they become major problems.”

But then, when does jealousy become excessive? When do we take this feeling too far?

Monica A. Frank wrote an article titled, What to Do When Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage, where she addresses the way that excessive jealousy can be left unkept and eventually creates problems in relationships that truly may never have existed in the first place. She writes,

One of the most difficult things for human beings, in general, is not knowing something with 100% certainty. We are often afraid to trust because we are fearful of disappointment and hurt. Therefore, we go through extreme contortions to try to protect ourselves from the possibility of loss and pain.Yet, these attempts to protect ourselves may actually be the means with which we destroy that which we are trying to preserve. In other words, a woman may eventually destroy her marriage because she is too fearful to take the chance of trusting that her husband is faithful. As a result, she causes the loss and pain that she was trying to prevent.

If you feel like your jealousy is beginning to take over your relationship or your fear is starting to call the shots, it’s probably time to pause and evaluate the situation. I’ve had to do this … more than once.

After all, jealousy CAN be a good thing and is a natural response to certain situations. But how do we get over this jealousy when it creates a pain point in our marriage?

How to get over jealousy: Where should i start?

Like most issues in relationships, simply deciding to quit a habitual behavior cold turkey is really not a sustainable option. I could try my very hardest to suppress any jealousy I feel, knowing that it’s unnecessary and uncalled for and still struggle DAILY. Why? Because learning how to get over regularly occurring feelings of jealousy requires some soul-searching and self-reflection.

There’s no reason to believe that jealousy will improve without being addressed. Jealousy is not an emotion that can be banished with wishful thinking. It goes right to the core of the self and has deep roots, and it takes awareness and effort to overcome these feelings.” – VeryWell Mind

It’s important to determine the ROOT of excessive jealousy if you truly want to learn how to not be jealous. Psychology Today classifies jealousy as a coping mechanism. So what are we coping with? We know it is nearly impossible to white-knuckle your way through learning how to not be jealous if the underlying fear or hurt is not addressed. So let’s address it.

{It’s important for me to note that for some, there may be valid reasons to feel that flustered worry or fear. In these cases, jealousy is likely the result of boundaries that have previously been crossed or your personal relationship standards having been broken. For you, the journey of learning how to stop being jealous will include different steps like forgiveness and trust-building before you can begin restoring your connection to a more healthy state, and in turn, restore your mental peace.}

Navigating jealousy around the spouse's use of social media is a growing issue | The Dating Divas
Couple navigates how to not be jealous with technology.

For me, in many situations, my jealousy typically involved my husband’s time or affection. My struggle with jealousy surrounding these two aspects in our relationship had nothing to do with my husband’s actions (like I thought it did!) and everything to do with my understanding of relational health and normality. For me, I was coping with my underlying feelings of being worthy with a touch of abandonment issues. Look, this is vulnerable, but I’m going to keep it real here.

For a lot of us, jealousy is often related to our subconscious expectations or fears that we unknowingly project. {Yes, that big communication word again. It’s a favorite in marriage resource circles for a reason!}

If I feel that my husband should have called me first to tell me great news he received at work, but he called his mom or his friend first instead, I may feel jealous because my expectations for his affection were not met. My jealousy may be rooted in my fears of not being good enough or concerns that this little action of choosing to call someone else first may be pointing to some looming problem in our relationship.

There’s a big fancy term for that called impending doom. Struggling with these anxieties can be normal, but they must be worked through if there is no obvious reality that warrants distrust.

The jealousy I experienced in my scenario signals that I find a connection in sharing memorable moments with my husband and feeling like his first choice. So in this example, because my husband was not aware of this internal expectation and did not call me first, I may feel rejected that I was not his first choice.

It would be easy to let this rejection and jealousy run wild in my mind. I’ve learned it is important to harness the jealousy at that moment, ask myself what within me has been triggered and what story I am telling myself. Then … you probably guessed it already … COMMUNICATE IT!

How to get over jealousy: vulnerability = connection

One of my favorite authors and speakers, Brene Brown, says something profoundly relevant in her book Daring Greatly:

Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection…

Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.

This quote is powerful. Like the example I shared above acknowledges on a small scale, jealousy can lead us to begin telling ourselves false stories about what is happening. Our perceived security in the relationship can feel more threatened by each second that we allow our thoughts to warp the situation further and further from reality.

Often, these are the moments when marriage can start to feel strained for our partners. We constantly seek reassurance, ask lots of questions, pout, experience habitual bitterness, and act out. These things FEEL easier than bravely and directly addressing the pain point.

Unfortunately, for our spouses, these behaviors may feel like an attack on their character. It would only be natural for a spouse to feel hurt from this constant questioning. It would even be natural for a spouse to react defensively because of our lack of trust towards them.

Confronting jealousy does not always go well for couples if the right conversational tools are not used | The Dating Divas
A partner exhibits defensiveness after a jealous confrontation.

Since I felt let down in my scenario, I may tell myself wilder and wilder things and land somewhere miles away on a thought like, “he doesn’t tell me exciting things because he doesn’t love me or find me fun anymore.” If I allow my mind to drift to this narrative, we can see how it would be SO TOUGH to courageously choose vulnerability and share with my husband how his decision to tell his mom or friend first made me feel.

The story I’ve told myself has already played out, and it feels so much safer to play my cards the passive-aggressive way because I believe this will help me avoid additional hurt or disappointment.

In the human mind, it makes sense to think: “if my husband really DID call someone else first because he loves me less, then I must hide this feeling from him because I would hate to confront this massive loss face-first.” But in reality, you and I both know that this lie I told myself can be quickly corrected by my husband’s loving reassurance if I were to open up to him.

outside help When Dealing With Marital Jealousy

If you are finding it extremely difficult to move past excessive jealousy or intrusive thoughts even when openly communicating with your spouse, I absolutely recommend you find a marriage counselor or therapist who can help you navigate deeper to your core pain point. Past traumas, experiences, or even just learned insecurities can play a significant role in how we navigate our relationships. I truly believe anyone and everyone can benefit from help with these things.

Jealousy creates distance between a couple struggling to communicate their boundaries | The Dating Divas
Couple feeling resentful to each other because one spouse constantly feels jealous.

The truth in Brene Brown’s quote lies in the critical moment of contemplation after jealousy. Connection is why we are here on this earth. Connection is what we desire for our marriages to be built on. The first and BIGGEST step in “how to not be jealous 101” is choosing vulnerability so that we can connect.

Jealousy gives us a false sense of connection, but true connection comes from moving past that feeling, working through it, and leaving it far, far behind. We must first choose vulnerability within ourselves to acknowledge the feeling and identify the core issue. We must then choose to engage with our partners and be direct in communicating our fears or frustrations from the jealousy-based situation.

How To Bring Up Jealousy Concerns

Being careful not to assign blame in open communication with your spouse is SO important since pointing fingers will only result in a negative conversation filled with defensiveness!

For my example, I should probably avoid starting a conversation with my husband by telling him he made me feel unloved or rant with anger towards his mother or friend. We will have a much more successful conversation if I let him know that he DOES make me feel loved when he is excited to share the news with me or when we get to share a surprise with others together. By doing this, I am choosing “I” statements versus “you” statements AND positively re-enforcing the need I discovered when I dug deeper into the root of my feelings.

By taking these small actions, we actually minimize the time that our mental stories and fears are allowed to rage out of control. The faster I turn towards my husband, the faster we learn more about what is important to each other, and the quicker we can calm the raging storm of worry in my mind.

Takeaways on dealing with Jealousy in marriage

Jealousy holds your spouse at arm’s length. We don’t let them move away because we’re scared or upset, but this means we also can’t allow them closer. Rather than pushing our partners away by making accusations or choosing to act passively out of insecurity, we can urge them closer by offering a bid for their affection as we learn together how to love each other better every day.

Here’s to soul-searching and vulnerable connection-seeking conversations with your partner. You got this!

Resources

Jealousy in Marriage: How It Happens and What to Do article by VeryWell Mind.

The Impact of Jealousy in a Relationship video by Marriage Recovery Center.

Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy: My Story article by Zachary Stockhill.

Understanding Healthy and Unhealthy Jealousy article by Focus on the Family.

Last note! We of course recommend finding amazing ideas for strengthening connections with your partner here at The Dating Divas.

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Mikayla

I am a 5'2" girl living in my 6'2" husband's world and loving EVERY second of it! I am the proud dog mom to our beautiful Corgi Australian Shepherd mix, Kobe. (Lovingly named by my hubs after his favorite LA Lakers Basketball legend Kobe Bryant.) I am the physical embodiment of the precise and vibrant intersection where the right brain meets the left. I am an introverted extrovert...or was it extroverted introvert?! I live for good music, challenging books, ALL forms of the glorious and ever-versatile potato, any DIY project that requires a big-girl powertool, daily quotes from The Office, every home reno show that exists on a streaming service, and moments in time that are filled by nothing but loud, lawless laughter.

Learn more about Mikayla
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