By Natalie Stigall, Education and Outreach Specialist
“A little jealousy keeps ‘em on their toes.”
“I like a partner with a jealous streak.”
“Jealousy is a sign of love.”
If there’s one emotion that is romanticized by our culture and media, it’s jealousy. From love triangles to revenge bods, media dramatizes jealousy in relationships and often empathizes with characters who, driven by jealousy, go to extreme lengths to win or win back their love interest. And all around us are messages that position jealousy as a sign of passion, love, and epic romance. But is the green-eyed monster ever part of a healthy and trusting relationship? And if it’s so terrible, why do so many people experience it?
Everyone gets jealous
Let’s settle one of those burning questions right away: jealousy is a totally common and normal emotion. Lots of people experience jealousy at different times throughout their lives. You might feel envious of a co-worker who is promoted before you, of a friend who seems to have it all, or even of another individual who is getting friendly with your partner or crush. It is not a bad or shameful emotion to feel or even to express. But how you talk about and work through your jealousy is key to maintaining healthy boundaries and relationships.
What to do when you feel jealous
It’s important to remember that jealousy is about how you feel, not about what someone else is doing. So, when you feel jealous, you first need to look inward. What is causing these feelings of insecurity and resentment? Maybe you’re worried about the strength of your relationship with a partner or friend; maybe you feel like your career is not as successful as you had hoped or imagined; or maybe you are being triggered by an old trauma or personal insecurity. Figuring out where that jealousy is coming from is the first step to addressing it in a healthy way.
The second step is communicating openly about your feelings to someone you trust. Every situation is different, and that’s why taking the time to practice self-awareness and determine your needs is so important. It might be best to talk directly to your friend or partner about your feelings or you might decide to explore some deeper issues with a professional.
When is jealousy not OK?
Jealousy becomes toxic when it is controlling your life and the life of your friend or partner. It might look like trying to control or restrict your partner’s behavior, getting angry or jealous over small things like borrowing a pen from another person, or checking up on them with or without their consent for your own reassurance. These behaviors are unhealthy at best and abusive when they occur within a relationship that is unequal and controlling.
If you are experiencing toxic jealousy, it might be best to talk to a professional, because your actions can hurt others as well as yourself. And if you are the victim of a jealous friend or partner, reach out to a crisis line like Love Is Respect or The Bridge’s 24-hour hotline.
What do you do when jealous feelings occur in your relationships with partners and loved ones? Let us know in the comments below!