THE FINE LINE OF JEALOUSY Print
How can I show my love I am protective of her without coming off as the green monster?
Ah yes, the right amount of jealous. Tough line to walk. You don’t want to appear disinvested and apathetic, but you also don’t want to seem controlling or crazy. Like wine, sunshine, and an HBO series, a certain amount is good, but too much can lead to all sorts of terrible. That’s right: a healthy degree of jealousy shows that you care, you value your relationship, and that you don’t want to lose it to someone (or something) else. But extreme jealousy, and unhealthy reactions to it, can be highly destructive, both to your relationship and your glass coffee table.
Unless you and your love live in the wilderness and never encounter others, you’re both bound to feel jealous at times; so, rather than focusing on not feeling jealous, focus on having healthy reactions to your jealousy. Start by becoming familiar with the feeling, so you can recognize and be in control of it, rather than have it be in control of you. What do you notice when you imagine your love with someone else? Do you feel hot and pressured? Panicked, with tunnel vision? Then, try to stay with that feeling long enough to assess what a helpful reaction to it might be. Emotions are there to tell us something—in this case, to be on guard because your relationship is being threatened—but sometimes they lie. So, try to asses whether jealousy’s telling you the truth, or if it’s a knee-jerk reaction coming from a past experience (e.g. my last girlfriend was cheating on me) or an outdated cultural norm (e.g. men and women cannot be friends). Friends can be quite helpful in assessing valid versus destructive jealousy, so perhaps recruit the opinion of a trusted other.
You want jealousy to help your relationship by reminding you how much you value your partner; you don’t want it to push your partner away because they feel controlled or mistrusted. Aim to appear confident, protective, and attentive toward your love rather than anxious or territorial. For example, if you’re at a wedding and you see her being chatted up by a seemingly interested fellow, go over and be present. Introduce yourself with a smile, and put your arm around your love or on the small of her back to show the “threat” that you and your lass are more than friends. Ask your love how she’s doing–if she wants something to eat or drink. How her feet are doing. You want to show her you’re concerned about how she’s feeling, not that you’re concerned she’s going to cheat on you.
Afterward, or following any instance of jealousy where you’re unsure whether or not your reaction was helpful, discuss it with your partner. Tell her what your experience was–perhaps sharing your desire to leave her feeling protected and valued without feeling controlled–and ask her about hers. If she expresses dissatisfaction with your reaction, ask her how she would have preferred you’d handled things, and see how her suggestions fit for you. Ultimately, as per the golden rule of relationships, the best way to find a healthy balance around jealousy is to trial, discuss, refine, and repeat, all the while trying to practice patience and compassion toward your partner. Both the process and the outcome of the discussion are likely to benefit your relationship, and keep you from turning too (noticeably) green.
Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC
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Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their relationship advice, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.