Woman looks annoyed as symbol of how to stop being jealous

How to Stop Being Jealous When It’s Affecting Your Relationship

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by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023
This article has been reviewed by Laurel House, an eharmony relationship expert. The content has been checked for accuracy and legitimacy based on the qualifications of our expert prior to publication.Reviewed by Relationship expert Laurel House

Jealousy can be an ugly thing when it rears its head in a relationship. It’s also understandable that it can be difficult  to figure out how to stop being jealous  due to your own insecurities and relationship stress. 

But often, jealousy can be a toxic influence on your relationship. Is jealousy healthy in a relationship? In measured doses, yes. Possessiveness is how we express our attachment to others but there is a limit. So, let’s look at types of jealousy, the psychology behind it and how you can deal with being jealous in your relationships.  

A look behind jealousy and different types of jealousy

Jealousy in a relationship is a natural emotional response that comes up when we perceive a threat to our relationship from a rival romantic interest, real or imagined. What often follows are feelings of insecurity, possessiveness, and competitiveness.

A variety of different studies have shown that men and women experience it in distinct ways. When figuring out how to stop being jealous, men have been shown to deal with the feeling through denial and avoidance, which can be unhealthy for a communicative relationship. Women tend to try to come across as more attractive to their partners. These are perhaps not as effective as being straightforward with them about your concerns1. Men also tended to be more concerned with sexual infidelity, whereas women were more preoccupied with emotional infidelity2

Jealousy vs. envy

It’s important to not confuse the emotions you may be feeling in this kind of relationship impasse.  Jealousy is about fearing losing what you already have in a relationship, while envy is about desiring what someone has. Jealousy is about relationships, while envy is about comparison.

Different types of jealousy when establishing how to stop being jealous

  • Emotional jealousy – This deals with the idea of intimacy with another person.
  • Sexual jealousy – A common form of jealousy that deals with the suspicion of our partner having a sexual relationship outside of yours.
  • Social jealousy – This is when one partner becomes jealous of the attention, popularity, or achievements of the other. When trying to look at how to stop being jealous, this often relates to self-esteem.
  • Retroactive jealousy – Being jealous of previous partners and sexual experiences.

Now let’s look at jealousy and its signs.

Signs of jealousy: Healthy vs. unhealthy

Jealousy isn’t always a toxic aspect of romantic relationships. But there are distinct signs that it’s unhealthy or just natural when jealous in a relationship. So let’s look at some.

Signs of healthy jealousy

Healthy or positive jealousy is generally expressed in a realistic situation in which you feel your relationship is threatened. Here are some examples of positive jealousy and dealing with jealousy.

  • When it’s not a constant feeling and more an act of love. The European Journal of Psychiatry found that 10% of adults have sporadic jealous thoughts of their partner3. As long as you don’t allow it to dominate your thoughts, it’s generally healthy. 
  • When it’s based on an actual threat. If there’s someone in your partner’s life you can instinctively feel wants more, jealousy can often just be positive relationships protecting behavior4, according to a study from the University of North Florida (UNF).
  • When you just trash-talk your perceived or real rival to your partner. The same study showed that derogating a perceived rival doesn’t cause stressors and helps focus attention back on your relationship[5].
  • Jealousy can often just be an act of emotional investment, according to the same study. It relays affection through the fear of loss. So being at least a bit jealous tells your partner that they’re desirable and important to you.

So, depending on the severity and how you approach it, you may not need an answer for how to overcome jealousy.

Signs of unhealthy jealousy

However, more often extreme jealousy can erode the relationship. Let’s explore what are some signs if you’re wondering, am I jealous in an unhealthy way?

  • When you often ideate about infidelity without any rational basis, it can often lead to possessive and anxious jealousy. So, you need to tackle that to figure out how to stop being jealous. According to the UFN, this can often alienate your partner as you begin to come across as deluded and obsessive.
  • When it starts to affect your relationship through baseless accusations and arguments that begin to cause rifts. The same study found that people with high levels of jealous thoughts rated as having the lowest sense of intimacy in their relationships.
  • When you start to express controlling behavior on your partner like regularly going through their phone or constantly monitoring their moments. Financially coercive behavior was reported to be the common form of coercive control, according to a University of Coventry study5 
  • Lastly, if it ever causes you to become overly aggressive or abusive towards your partner, then that’s probably one of the most toxic forms of jealousy and a strong indicator of future abuse, according to a study by East Tennessee State University6. Consider not dating for a while and seeking professional help.

So reactive jealousy (one based on a real romantic rival) shows itself to actually be beneficial to a relationship in certain quantities whereas suspicious jealousy (imagined) has a profoundly negative effectr7

Why am I so jealous: dealing with it in your relationships

Let’s explore some of the reasons behind jealousy in your journey of how to stop being jealous.

  • Low self-esteem – When we don’t love ourselves, we often find it difficult to believe that someone else can. A study from the American Psychological Association (APA) found a very strong link between low self-worth and tendencies toward jealousy8
  • Being closed off – Keeping your feelings locked inside can affect feelings of jealousy as you bottle them up instead of healthily expressing them to your partner and other people in your life. A study from Frontiers in Psychology found openness can have a positive effect on intimacy9
  • Your past – The same study found that people who’d experienced infidelity, betrayal and reactive jealous situations in the past were far more likely to experience feelings of jealousy in future relationships.
  • Lack of agreeableness – One of the strongest correlations found in a study by Bucknell University between jealousy and our main personality traits was not being agreeable10. This can include traits like being selfish, inconsiderate, untrusting and having an argumentative nature.
  • Lack of intimacy – If your relationship begins to grow distant, you may be tempted to begin reasoning that it’s the result of infidelity, instead of seeing it as a sign of growing relationship problems.

10 healthy approaches on how to stop being jealous

Let’s look at some healthy ways to address these emotions, whether perceived or real, and strategies on how to not be jealous in a relationship.

  • Take a look inside – Try to examine the elements of your past, emotions and inner self that are creating these emotions. They may stem from entirely unrelated events and have become part of your attachment model.  
  • Communication – Often when one’s figuring out how to not be jealous, we miss the basic fact of just talking about it with our partner. If you feel like they’re realistic suspicions, then it can also help you gauge their responses. However, if it’s baseless, it can still be an opportunity to develop more trust in your relationships, if approached positively.   
  • Work on your sense of value – As we said, feeling like we don’t deserve our partner is a big source of jealousy. So work on self-affirming activities like exercise, a new hobby, keeping a journal or setting yourself a realistic life goal. 
  • Discuss your suspicions with friends – Your friends and family can help give some perspective on how to stop being jealous but also offer an exterior, less biased perspective on how realistic your suspicions may be.  
  • Develop coping mechanisms – This is more of a short-term strategy to deal with the rising anxiety that jealous feelings can elicit. It can be writing down what you’re feeling, taking a walk or any activity you know to find calming. 
  • Address negative thought patterns – Try to be mindful of when your feelings of jealousy come up. What actions from your partner or, perhaps, repetitive ideation are creating these feelings of jealousy? Tackle them at their root. 
  • Recognize that relationships mature – Every relationship has a honeymoon period where you’re all over each other. But as the relationship progresses, these aspects dull somewhat as you both settle in. This isn’t a bad thing. But don’t confuse the heat dying down in your relationship with them being unfaithful.
  • Don’t let the past trip you up – Retroactive jealousy about someone’s past isn’t constructive unless an ex is still in their life and you find their interactions inappropriate. And don’t get too stuck in yours either. Try to look at every new relationship as a clean slate. 
  • Don’t compare yourself to others – If there’s someone in your partner’s life who you think is a threat, don’t start comparing your attributes to see if they’re better or likely to entice your partner away. You have a unique relationship and story and that means more than passing attraction to most people.
  • Consider therapy – Sometimes there are certain emotions and past traumas that you just can’t overcome on your own and need professional care. So if these feelings are persistent and overwhelming, it may be best to talk to someone.

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Figure out how to stop being jealous and build healthy structures in your relationship

The ways of addressing jealousy are vast. But the sources of it are rather simple and as old as human relationships. Learn to trust your partner and talk to them. Also, recognize that jealousy is often just an expression of how much that person means to you and how we can sometimes manufacture these unrealistic narratives in our heads about our partner. But never keep those emotions inside because they’ll slowly eat away at it.

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