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Jealousy: Causes and cures

Australian Women's Weekly Australian Women's Weekly 11/11/2014

Couple sitting on sofa with arms folded, looking angry. © Corbis Couple sitting on sofa with arms folded, looking angry.

We've all felt a jealous pang or two in our lifetime. But how much is too much? Too many visits from the green-eyed monster can wreak havoc on even the strongest of relationships.

"Jealousy is wanting something someone else has ... having a sense of entitlement to something; and so you feel you may be missing out," explains Anne Hollonds, the CEO of Relationships Australia, NSW.

"There are good and bad aspects of all emotions, and so it's true that a small dose of jealousy might be helpful."

For example, Anne says if you see someone flirting with your partner and you feel a tinge of jealousy, the positive is that it might make you realise how important your partner is to you, when maybe you've been taking him for granted.

"So in this way it helps to put something on the radar for you ... to put you on notice to take action and do something about it," she adds. "But if you feel it far too frequently, it's a sign of a bigger problem. It could well become a barrier between you and your partner.

"You might interpret that he's home late from work as a sign that he doesn't love me, he's going to leave me. At that point, the best thing to do, ideally, is to talk about it with each other."

Are you jealous?

According to Anne, you are feeling jealous if you...

  • Constantly wonder where your partner is.
  • Check credit cards and/or receipts.
  • Cut yourselves off as a couple, from others, so you can have him all for yourself.

"If you experience it occasionally say, for example, if he notices a pretty girl walking down the street, it's no big deal," says Anne.

"But if you feel it every time you're at a party or a restaurant together; or he goes to a work function in the evening and you're sitting at home stewing, then yes it's a problem.

Overwhelming feelings of jealousy

Anne also cautions that feelings of jealousy can be so overwhelming that it erodes your relationship — so much so that even when it is just the two of you alone together, you're still not able to enjoy each other's company because of the resentment or fear.

"It casts a dark shadow over all your interactions," she says. "You need to talk about it. Just say 'This is a problem, can we talk about it?' If he's unable or unwilling to it's probably a sign you need professional help; ideally together, but otherwise, on your own."

How can you stop this behaviour?

"You need to change your own self-talk and recognise 'this is a vulnerability of mine'," Anne explains, adding that you tell your partner that you need extra reassurance.

"Ask him to give you some positive feedback about how you look. Maybe you never got that as a child and he needs to understand that. The more he can reassure you, the less you're going to need it.

"Especially after having a baby; that can be a vulnerable time when you'll need lots of positive affirmation."

However, you also need to take responsibility for yourself, too.

"Some people find it helpful to write a journal … every day jot down the things you are grateful for and focus on those positives [such as] 'I'm strong'; 'I'm capable'; 'I'm a great mum'," Anne recommends. "Write them down every day and remind yourself. It is amazing that we can retrain our thoughts to focus more on the positives than the negatives."

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