What is jealousy?
Jealousy is a powerful and painful emotion. Some people get jealous when they believe that their partner gives attention, love, or affection to someone else. Jealousy may include many different feelings, such as:
Envy is wanting what someone else has. Jealousy is a strong need to hold on tightly to what you already have and keeping other people from taking it away. Jealousy involves more anger, mistrust, and doubt than does envy.
What is the cause?
Some experts believe that jealousy is rooted in childhood, with a child having to share his mother with a third person (such as a brother, sister, or father). These are the first feelings of jealousy. They are very painful for most children. A child who is left alone with these feelings, or expected to feel only delight with the new arrival in the family, may enter adulthood with strong unmanaged feelings of jealousy.
Jealousy in adulthood may be made more powerful by these early unresolved feelings. For example, a girl whose father prefers her sister may have trouble with jealousy of other women later in life. She may be jealous of her coworkers or her husband’s coworkers, or even of her own daughters.
Jealousy may be a symptom of another disorder such as epilepsy, mood disorder, schizophrenia, or substance abuse. If jealousy happens suddenly, it may be a kind of paranoia. People with this kind of jealousy may commit assault, murder, or suicide.
How does jealousy cause problems?
How much trouble you have with jealousy depends on a number of factors:
how jealous feelings were handled in the past
how faithful and loyal your partner is
your level of self-esteem and confidence
Jealousy is often based on doubt. The first step is to ask yourself:
What do I feel insecure about?
Do I feel unattractive or uninteresting myself?
Do I doubt that the other person loves me?
Do I doubt that I can have the type of relationship I want?
Jealous feelings can be caused by low self-esteem and can make your self-image worse. A vicious circle can be set up. For example, suspicion and mistrust may make you feel that you have to constantly guard your romantic partner to make sure he or she doesn’t run off with someone else. The constant questioning can further destroy your self-esteem and undermine the relationship. Accusations can turn into arguments or violence. One partner may try to control the other partner’s life. This behavior may be more than jealousy. It may be abuse. If this occurs, seek help right away.
What can I do to deal with jealousy?
Take responsibility for your own jealous feelings. Talk about them rather than acting them out. For example, say “I am feeling jealous,” rather than questioning or accusing your partner.
Sometimes jealousy occurs because your romantic partner is unfaithful. Sometimes it happens in a social or work situation when people shut you out. You need to face the situation honestly and directly. The behavior of others may not change. You may need to end a relationship.
Work on building your self-esteem. Join a support group to help you feel valued by others. Get involved in projects to help others. Make sure you have more than one friend. Read self-help books or talk with a therapist about ways to increase your self-esteem. Jealousy is a complex feeling. It can be a relief to discuss your feelings with a therapist and begin to understand where they come from.