Is your spouse unreasonably jealous? Or are you the one in the marriage who feels jealous when your spouse focuses on other people or interests? Whoever is the one that exhibits this behavior, jealousy in marriage is a toxic emotion that, when carried too far, can destroy a marriage.
But you might get swayed by media influence and wonder, is jealousy healthy in a relationship, as they show it in the movies or television series.
Contrary to what the media portrays in romantic movies, jealousy is not equivalent to love. Jealousy mostly stems from insecurity. The jealous spouse often does not feel they are “enough” for their partner. Their low self-esteem makes them perceive other people as threats to the relationship.
They, in turn, try to control the partner by preventing them from having any outside friendships or hobbies. This is not healthy behavior and can doom the marriage eventually.
Some authors see the roots of jealousy early in childhood. It is observed among siblings when we call it “sibling rivalry.” At that age, children compete for the attention of their parents. When a child thinks that they aren’t getting exclusive love, the jealous feelings begin.
Most of the time, this wrong perception goes away as the child develops and gains a healthy level of self-esteem. But sometimes, it persists ultimately transferring over to love relationships when the person starts dating.
So, before we move on to how to stop being jealous and how to overcome jealousy in marriage, let us try to understand what causes jealousy in marriage and insecurities in marriage.
What is the basis of jealousy?
Jealousy issues often begin with poor self-esteem. The jealous person usually does not feel a sense of innate worth.
They might think that “Forsake all others” includes friendships and hobbies, too. Their expectations about what a relationship is are not grounded in reality. They don’t understand that it is good for marriage that each spouse must have their outside interests.
The jealous spouse feels a sense of ownership and possessiveness towards their partner and refuses to allow the partner free agency out of fear that the freedom will enable them to find “someone better.”
Causes of jealousy in marriage
There can be several reasons for jealousy in relationships. The feeling of jealousy creeps up to a person due to some occurrence but might continue to happen in other situations as well, if not tackled carefully at the right time.
The jealous spouse may have unresolved early-childhood problems of sibling rivalry, negative experiences with partner indiscretions and transgressions. Apart from childhood issues, it is also possible that a bad experience in a previous relationship with infidelity or dishonesty leads to jealousy in the next one.
They think that by remaining alert (jealous), they can prevent the situation from repeating itself. Instead, it gives rise to insecurity in marriage.
They don’t realize that this irrational behavior is toxic to the relationship and can result in driving the spouse away, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The jealous pathology creates the very situation that the afflicted person is trying to avoid.
A small amount of jealousy in marriage is healthy; most people state that they feel a twinge of jealousy when their partner talks about an old love or maintains innocent friendships with members of the opposite sex.
But excessive jealousy and insecurity in marriage can lead to dangerous behavior such as that displayed by people like O.J. Simpson as a jealous husband and Oscar Pistorius as a jealous lover. Fortunately, that type of pathological jealousy is rare.
The jealous spouse is not merely jealous of their partner’s friendships. The object of jealousy in marriage can be time spent at work or indulging in a weekend hobby or sport. It is any situation where the jealous person cannot control the circumstances and therefore feels threatened.
Yes, it is irrational. And it is very damaging, as the spouse can do little to reassure the jealous mate that there is no threat “there.”
How jealousy ruins relationships
Too much jealousy and trust issues in marriage will wear down even the best of weddings, as it permeates all aspects of the relationship.
The jealous partner requires constant reassurance that the imagined threat is not real.
The jealous partner may resort to dishonest behaviors, such as installing a key-logger on the spouse’s keyboard, hacking their email account, going through their phone and reading text messages, or following them to see where they are “really” going.
The non-jealous spouse finds themselves in a continual state of defensiveness, having to account for every move made when not with their spouse.
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Can jealousy be unlearned?
It takes a lot of time and effort to deal with jealousy in a marriage. But, you can take appropriate measures to unlearn and detangle the deep roots of jealousy.
So, how to deal with jealousy in marriage?
There are a lot of things that you can do to stop jealousy from hampering your marriage. The first step is to communicate. You can try to imbibe trust in your relationship and comfort your spouse about the issues bothering them.
Also, if you feel that you are the one contributing to jealousy in marriage, you must try every possible way to curb your emotions. If your wedding is at stake, it is worth entering into counseling to help untangle the roots of jealousy.
Typical areas that your therapist will have you work on include:
Recognizing that the jealousy is damaging your marriage
Committing to grips with the fact that the jealous behavior is not based on anything factual occurring in the marriage
Relinquishing the need to control your spouse
Rebuilding your sense of self-worth through self-care and therapeutic exercises designed to teach you that you are safe, loved, and worthy
Whether you or your spouse is experiencing an abnormal level of jealousy in marriage, rational jealousy, or irrational jealousy, as discussed by Georgia State University, it is recommended that you seek help if you want to save the marriage.
Even if you sense that the marriage is beyond saving, getting therapy would be a good idea so that the roots of this negative behavior can be examined and treated. Any future relationships you may have can be healthy ones.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.