The little green monster in the bedroom

Even though very few people like to admit it, we all feel jealousy from time to time. Whether it’s over a quality that another person has that we wished we possessed, or coveting precious time that we wish to spend with a person that another person is “hogging”, it’s fairly common and natural. It seems troubling, however, when it predominates in our thinking and sours our relationship with others. This is especially true with our spouses and lovers.

A common problem I see in couples and individuals in my practice stems from people feeling insecure with their mates because of real or imagined indiscretions that a person’s mate has engaged in. Sometimes both spouses have “cheated”, whether in person with another person or over social media or “sexting.” The question of trust arises, of course, but the deeper and more penetrating issue is the insecurity itself. How did this insecurity find its way into the relationship, and what to do about it once it’s there?

While there’s no magic pill or easy answer to this, I think there are some general ideas I can share that might help with this problem.

First and foremost, working through childhood wounds of feeling unloved or unworthy is crucial to feeling secure and not succumbing to jealousy, at least on a grand scale and to the extent that it hurts your relationships. This takes a while, I know, and it can be pretty painful. But trust me: it’s worth it!

Second, strengthen your relationship with the person by focusing on what you like and appreciate about the person you’ve chosen as your spouse or lover. It’s easy to find fault with other people, especially when you think they have let you down. Yet the real challenge, and the real sign of love, is acknowledging and finding the good in them. What are you grateful for in this person? What do you find attractive/sexy/compelling about him or her? What would your life be like without this person? Tell the person that. Even if you’re fighting. ESPECIALLY if you’re fighting! Keep doing it. You are “winning” not by hurling insults (the easy, obvious choice), but by softening the walls between you and that person.

Third, strengthen your self esteem by acknowledging and appreciating your own gifts and attributes. If someone else has an ability or quality you like, ask yourself two things. Is that a quality that I can aspire to have myself? If I worked on it, could I be congenial and sociable like Bill over there? Or is it something, like being 6’7″ tall and a pro athlete, that I’m not likely to accomplish in this lifetime? If it’s the former, then you can put your energy into developing that skill or ability. If it’s the latter, you can accept that you’re not a pro basketball player and appreciate the skills and size of your favorite NBA star. Which brings me to my forth idea.

Fourth, be happy — yes, genuinely HAPPY — for people you envy. Wish them well. Enjoy their success vicariously. Believe it or not, it makes you happier and more attractive. You’re not always resenting other people for what they have and you don’t. Instead, you are gracious and generous with your joy. What a concept!

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