How to handle jealousy in your relationships

Mar 24, 2017

Cathy: Let’s talk about jealousy.

Liz: Oh, the green-eyed monster.

Cathy: Yeah. We both have green eyes.

Liz: Yeah. Well, they might be green today. Mine do like green tea, yellow, hazel.

Cathy: Nice.

Liz: I’m basically a cat. It’s cool.

Cathy: This is Dr. Liz from Sex-Positive Psych.

Liz: This is Cathy Vartuli from The Initimacy Dojo.

Cathy: Whose eyes are normally green.

Liz: Normally green, yeah.

Cathy: Jealousy is such a big topic for a lot of people.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: And I know in the society I was brought up in, the very hetero-normative, if anyone was jealous, it was their partner’s fault. And they should hide it by buoying their partner at the same time. And the best way to handle it was to avoid all – anything that would cause jealousy and to strain both of your worlds until such a point that jealousy never showed up.

Liz: Right. So, this is such a common misconception especially in non-monogamous relationships that what you feel jealousy in things must change to prevent jealousy ever.

Cathy: And avoid it like the plague.

Liz: Right. And the thing is, the more that you set rules and restrictions to try to avoid a feeling, the more it is you’re actually reinforcing that feeling.

Cathy: And you start controlling your partner more and more until both of you feel suffocated and you don’t understand why it’s not working very well.

Liz: Right. Jealousy is basically your brain telling you that you’re afraid of something or that you’re not getting something you want. If I tell Cathy that there’s some monster outside of her door, the only way she can prove me wrong is by checking, right? If she just sits in here and she’s like, “Well, someone told me there’s a monster. I better stay in here forever.” She can never prove that wrong, right?

So with jealousy, a lot of time what people are experiencing is a fear that something is going to happen, that something is going to change. Their partner is going to leave them or find someone else.

Cathy: You don’t love me anymore.

Liz: Right. And the reality is there’s no rule that will stop those things. You can never set a rule in your relationship that will prevent your partner from cheating on you.

Cathy: No, no, no. If I’d never let you see another person, if I put blinders on you then you wouldn’t notice anyone.

Liz: Sure. If you spend 24 hours a day with your partner you physically handcuff yourself to them and take away their ability to use any social media then yeah, absolutely.

Cathy: That’s not much of a life though.

Liz: But that’s not much of a life. And that’s the only full-proof way to assure that they do what you want.

Cathy: And I’ve seen relationships where that actually is happening.

Liz: Oh yeah, where their partner gets to read every email, every text message, listen in on every phone call. And like, are you their jailer or their partner?

Cathy: Yeah, and their mother or what. Yeah.

Liz: Right.

Cathy: Yeah. No, I love that idea. Like let’s explore what’s there. And I love that the poly community is actually, some of them are very, very good at saying, “Well, I’m feeling jealousy now. Can we talk about that or can I figure out what it is that I need to do differently or explore versus my partner needs to modify their behavior to not activate my fears.” Because we’re humans. We have fears. And we love someone.

Liz: Right.

Cathy: There’s no guaranteeing like, “Oh, you made my life better. I want to keep you.” But keeping somebody just to keep them is – doesn’t work.

Liz: Yeah, it doesn’t work. And I think if you’re feeling jealous because your insecurity is being brought up inside of you, what you need to do is trample that insecurity. If you’re worried your partner is going to leave you for someone better, there’s something you don’t feel good about in yourself and no amount of rules is going to change that. If you’re jealous because your partner isn’t meeting your needs, no amount of rules is going to force them to meet your needs.

Cathy: No. But asking them to meet those needs and finding other ways to meet them and acknowledging those needs is much more powerful than like, “You never do this” which is how most of us deal with jealousy.

Liz: Yeah. And you maybe on different pages where your need is you need them to talk to you every day. And their availability is they can talk to you twice a week.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: And then you have to decide, are you able to accept their availability in a way that still feels good and authentic for you or are they not the right fit?

Cathy: Yeah. So Reid talks about jealousy being the sign of need that isn’t getting met, which I really like. So it’s a warning light is how he describes it. And I really like that. Like if I’m feeling jealous, to me it’s like the car dashboard, there’s a light going on that something needs attention. Either I need to put more oil in or I need to let the car pull off. And then it’s not necessarily my partner’s job to fulfill that. I can certainly request that and I can request my friends help me too but it’s ultimately my job to keep my car running right.

Liz: Right.

Cathy: And just being aware of that and exploring that gives me all the power than saying, “Oh look, what my partner did. I saw them looking at that waitress or I saw them …” because people do look at people.

Liz: Yeah, people do look at people. And I think that when you start down that path of like, “He looked at that waitress and blah, blah, blah.” It builds on itself to the point where everything is harming you. And that’s not a good way for you to live either.

Cathy: It’s a victim mentality and it’s not very powerful.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: And it’s also not – it’s hard to be very like engaging and someone that – when I’m trying to control and that we all get in this space when we do that especially we’re feeling overwhelmed, but it’s hard for me to feel sexy and like, “Hey, look at me” kind of thing. It’s more like, “You better look at me.”

Liz: Right.

Cathy: And it’s a different energy.

Liz: And if you’re always telling someone that they’re going to leave you, that is going to come true, right? The message that you’re sending someone where you’re telling them over and over, “Well, you’re going to leave me for someone better” is that you think that you’re not good enough for them.

Cathy: Yeah. So if you’re having a lot of jealousy, realized that it’s probably some insecurities going on, some needs not getting met, write – spend some time journaling if that works for you. Find a therapist or a coach. And there are some great programs out there in jealousy too if you want to read. I love Reid’s The 8-Armed Octopus of Jealousy and there are others. Work through that. And instead of trying to avoid the feeling, learn about it and figure out ways to get your needs met so that it’s not controlling you.

Liz: Yeah. In general with tough feelings, the only way out is through. You’re not going to get out of it by running. You have to go through it.

Cathy: Yeah. We’d love to know what you think. Leave comments below.

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