Jealous (adj.): Fearful or wary of losing one’s position or situation to someone else, especially in a sexual relationship. —American Heritage Dictionary
Jealousy stirs within us from love (or lust), but it’s the very thing that can kill love too.
Luckily, this jealously thing is fixable. But whatever you do, don’t go looking to the lessons you learned as a kid (or teen, or even adult) for the fix. Our society has a bizarre relationship with jealousy that has screwed us over royally.
Before I can give you the fix, we’ve got some unpacking to do.
7 bizarre (untrue) societal lessons you learned that mess you up
1. Jealousy is something that just happens to you.
You have no control over it. It comes out of nowhere like a glitter bomb at a nightclub.
2. Jealousy means you care about or love someone.
In fact, if you’re not jealous, do you really love them?
Not a jealous person? Well, maybe it’s not really love, then.
Wildly jealous? They must be The One.
3. Jealousy is what makes a relationship hot.
Let’s pause here. When you were in grade school, you probably learned all kinds of lessons about pushing up against the boundaries of what’s acceptable. One thing you likely learned was that it’s not okay for friends to be jealous of each other’s time, possessions, and other friends.
So maybe you made a friend when you were younger. A good friend. You had lunch with her every day, played on the playground together at recess, and told each other everything. Friendship is awesome!
Then, one day, she decided to have lunch with a different friend, and you freaked out. (Or maybe you were the friend being freaked out on.) This lesson eventually taught you that yeah, it’s super-not-okay to try and monopolize another person’s time and affection.
That was a hard lesson, wasn’t it? Turns out friends are allowed to have other friends—end of story.
Even if you learned this important lesson about friendship when you were about six, you were probably taught that it’s normal, okay, and even desirable to be jealous of a lover or spouse. It’s okay to act out jealous feelings. It’s okay to try to control your partner because of those feelings.
As you grew up, you were also taught that feelings are not an excuse for inappropriate behavior.
Chances are that by the time you were old enough to buy beer, you knew that a person couldn’t say to a judge, “I’m really sorry I murdered those people with an axe. But I was really sad, okay? My mom just got diagnosed with cancer” and get off from a murder charge. That’s not how it works.
But we are taught this exact thing about jealousy. We even have a name for acting out our jealousy or other intense feelings (often, though not always, related to sex and/or relationships) to the extreme:
4. Jealousy inspires crimes of passion.
This kind of offense often gets a lighter sentence than premeditated crimes.
5. If you’re experiencing a negative feeling that you don’t want to experience, then it must be somebody else’s fault.
That’s right, you’re feeling what you’re feeling, but the blame lies 100% with someone else.
They made it happen.
And whoever caused that feeling in you is responsible for fixing it.
If you’re angry at something I did, then your anger must be my fault. If I’m angry at something you did, then my anger must be your fault.
Sound about right to you?
Which leads to…
6. The responsibility of you not being angry (or jealous) anymore is on someone else.
That’s what society has taught us.
To have no control or agency over our own lives.
Good job, society!
Overcoming Jealousy Like a Badass
Are you ready to say, “Screw you, jealousy, I want something better!”
Good, me too. On that hopeful note, here are three grown-up life steps you can take to get on the path to overcoming jealousy and living a happy, fulfilled life.
Step 1: Own your own feelings.
When you feel angry, hurt, scared, or jealous, notice the emotion.
Maybe it’s a response to something someone else has done or said, or maybe it’s not.
But consider this: it isn’t that person who has to fix it. They’re your feelings.
Your feelings are yours like your toenails are yours. It’s all part of the package that is you.
And you wouldn’t want to disempower yourself by giving that kind of sway over you to anyone else, would you? I mean, what if the other person doesn’t want to fix your feelings?
Maybe the person is a narcissistic asshole who doesn’t care about you. And if they’re responsible for how you feel, that would be terrible for you, right? Your life is now one continuous experience of misery because they don’t feel like fixing how you feel.
If they’re not showing you the love, consideration, and compassion you need but they’re showing favoritism towards others, your job is to recognize this and then to say, “Oh, I’m jealous and hurt. That’s mine.” Only then can you address their behavior from a place of constructive emotion.
Step 2: Locate the root cause.
“What’s that about for me?”
“Why do I feel hurt by that?”
“Why am I jealous over that?”
Maybe it has nothing to do with the other person. Or maybe it does. You won’t know until you stop and ask yourself these kinds of questions.
Step 3: Ask for help from a place of partnership.
Try, “I’m trying to sort out some feelings I have. Would you be willing to help me with this?”
You might say, “Would you say these words to me, and mean them? ‘I love you, and you’re the most important person to me.’”
Now, if you asked the other person that, they could say, “No way. Byyyeee!”
But as someone who loves you, they’re more likely to say, “Oh my God, of course, I’ll say those words, I’m so sorry if you’ve been feeling any other way.” They’ll probably also give you a ten-minute speech about what you mean to them, and how amazing they think you are.
People who love you want you to know you’re loved by them. That’s normal.
But do you want to know what’s not normal or common?
What’s not common is for hurt humans to handle jealousy like a badass. Like an empowered, adult taking responsibility for what’s happening within them.
Saying, “Oh, I’m jealous and hurt — that’s mine” is not normal.
It’s not common for folks to say to themselves, “I own my own feelings.”
What’s typical and predictable is the rant, “I’m upset. Say you’re sorry because you hurt my feelings. Fix it!!!”
We go on the defensive instead of looking for ways to own our experiences and find common ground with which to address problems.
Jealousy and the lack of accountability for it is an intimacy and relationship killer. It weakens your position in the relationship and it interferes with mutual trust and a willingness to be vulnerable with each other.
While you can’t cure jealousy, you can harness it. You can use it for a highly constructive purpose—as a valuable signal to look inside and repair your own sense of self.
Do you need more help here? Here are 28-minutes of audio from me teaching you ways to relate to and handle your jealousy effectively. (You’re welcome!)
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Wendy Newman is the author of 121 First Dates. She’s a dating, sex, and relationship expert who’s led hundreds of workshops and revolutionized the lives of over 70,000+ women internationally.
Need one-on-one coaching from Wendy? You can hire her by the hour.
You can send a question to the column via email: Wendy@WendySpeaks.com
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