Jealousy poisons many relationships while searching for love’s closeness.  It is irrational and unreasonable. The jealous lover is gripped tightly by chronic fears of future rejection and wounding.  For the jealous lover there is not enough love from the self or the partner; no control is enough to ensure safety from harm and insecurity.  Even in the warm arms of love, the jealous lover can find no relief.

     The source of jealousy is strongly related to its emotional cousins of fear, envy and insecurity.  It develops out of feeling that one is inadequate: not powerful enough, not beautiful enough, not good enough.  Jealous lovers, believing that they do not deserve love, fear certain rejection.  Some come to be jealous through deprivation and others through injury, such as betrayal, in which trust has been damaged.  Other lovers, already with a propensity for fear, are malnourished in their relationship with a partner who loves poorly by offering insufficient affection, sharing, openness, reliability, or dependability.  Past harm justifies fear to the insecure that hurt will happen again. In all cases, jealousy springs from the pain of unhealed past wounds that are repeatedly re-injured provoking anger and acts of retribution.  Irregardless of its source, jealousy is a toxic emotion that defies easy solutions.  Partners of the jealous grow quickly frustrated and react to unreasonable demands in ways which may validate already potent insecurity. In trying to make an insecure partner feel loved, there is little success.

     Jealous partners have difficulty trusting.  Doubting their own worth and value, the jealous partners question the sincerity of the others’ love.  Consistent distrust often is taken personally by the other when efforts to build trust are met with suspicion.  Non-verbal accusations of untrustworthiness can seem incessant. A partner who behaves deceptively, sometimes out of self-preservation, solidifies and further validates the jealous partner’s distorted emotional truth. 

     Distrust is like a deep well with slick, unscalable walls and a strong gravitational pull…any information offered is sucked into the well, trapped within it and offering no remedy for escape.  Distrust spawns suspiciousness. When viewed with suspicion any defending explanation is viewed distrustfully by an insecure partner and is rendered suspect.  Trustworthy partners find themselves defenseless against the jealous partner’s irrational suspicion. Proving that a non-event did not happen…such as the hurtful events that a jealous partner imagines, is an impossible task.

     A suspicious mind functions like a detective.  Questions are asked with obvious pre-formed doubt about any answer’s veracity.  The partners grow wary of, and seek to avoid probing questions, knowing painfully well that they precede sessions of “20 questions.” With the skill and tenacity of an interrogator, jealous partners grill the other for information while accusing them, often without proof, of hurtful actions.  

     The fear and discomfort of jealousy is manifested by repetitious worry-based thoughts that anticipate painful, catastrophic future events.  Worries linked in a cyclic fashion builds momentum that forms obsession…a pattern of thought about which the jealous individual feels powerless to slow or prevent.  Fear has control of the jealous person, not the other way around.

     In attempts to reduce fear and increase comfort, a jealous partner attempts to control his or her environment so as to decrease risk and increase safety from harm.  Efforts include controlling the partner.  If a couple is healing from an infidelity or other harmful crisis, efforts at increasing control by an injured partner are appropriate to achieve healing and relationship stability, but where no recent injury has occurred a jealousy-prone partner’s chronic need to be in control, for safety and reassurance, incessantly violates the other’s boundaries.  Emotionally caging the partner is an attempt to prevent any risk of flight or attraction to another.  Despite jealousy’s attempt at control, it backfires; the caged partner grows more distant, disconnected, less attracted and wishes to flee confinement.

     Jealousy and insecurity form a self-validating cycle…the more distrust is in place, the more the distrustful partner will find justification for distrust. Insecurities defy easy change unless the root of personal inadequacy is healed, a long-term task.  Short of that some behavioral efforts may soothe jealousy-based relationship problems.  Rules similar to those that guide the introduction of evidence into a court of law are helpful to reduce the toxic power of suspicion.  This is performed by using strength to reject suspicion if no solid, direct proof exists and then by offering the partner benefit-of-doubt.  Such discipline prevents the inflation of suspicion when it becomes married with imagination.  Hearsay, or indirect communication from another, others’ opinions, assumptions and general interpretations must be rejected as unworthy evidence. By assuming a partner is innocent unless direct proof confirms his or her guilt prevents the build-up of poisonous contamination. 

      Additional practices may loosen jealousy’s grip if sufficient emotional strength is used. A non-jealous partner can reduce the other’s suspicion by practicing generous sharing of information and complete openness.  Avoid violating a partner’s privacy by snooping…evidence obtained this way by injures and is tainted; it is sure to cause a nasty difficult-to-resolve conflict.  Use strength to resist the investigative obsessions of Facebook and social media hunting. Asking for reassurance is more constructive than throwing hurtful accusations.  Jealousy is poisonous. Love is not built from fear. Andrew Aaron, LICSW

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