Jealousy is an emotion that very commonly creates discord and strife in romantic relationships. While the impact this emotion has on a relationship can vary, it’s usually damaging and generally leads to some level of disconnection. Jealousy can be insidious, as it can start off with one partner feeling mildly concerned over a threat to their relationship, and quickly spiral out of control if not addressed.
Jealousy is an intense, complicated feeling that can even lead to aggressive and dysfunctional behaviors. It may result from actual past events that have created distrust between the partners. However, much of the time, jealousy is irrational and leads to emotional overreaction and conflict.
The Impact of Jealousy
There are multiple reasons that people experience jealously, some of which are healthier than others. In fact, depending on how the feelings of jealously are communicated, they can actually be well received by the partner. But regardless of the cause, they can become a destructive force in a relationship.
Jealousy can cause people to live in a state of hypervigilance, being on edge that their partner might become disloyal or simply disinterested. It is often expressed in the form of anger, rage, or paranoia. When it becomes unmanageable, individuals will begin to pull away from their jealous partner. Unfortunately, this expected detachment can seem like a self fulfilling prophecy for the one who is jealous.
It can become quite irrational, as fear feeds jealousy. People can begin to believe the lies their fear is telling them through their thinking patterns. They can be quick to misinterpret cues in their environment or over-personalize behavior that is not directed at them. Their lens can become quite distorted and incomplete.
As a result, it causes people to be overly sensitive to behaviors of their partner. Jealousy can lead to people to become controlling, possessive and even potentially abusive. Jealous partners can begin obsessing and even demonstrating stalking behaviors. They can become so consumed with these concerns that they find it difficult to think about anything else.
Clearly, jealousy will suffocate a relationship. There is no room for extreme jealousy in a healthy partnership. It can create quite a toxicity between people, as it leads to frustration, arguments and overall dissatisfaction for all involved. If you are consumed with jealousy, it may feel like passion or love on the surface, but it is distinctly different. There is no room for genuine love when jealousy is dominating a relationship.
Overcoming Jealousy in a Relationship
There are usually communication breakdowns when jealousy enters a relationship. If this has occurred, there are actions couples can take to mend and heal. Open the lines of communication and share your concerns and fears without accusing or attacking one another. Talk about each others’ strengths and revisit what brought you together in the first place. Everyone in a relationship needs affirmation from their partner, so find ways to include it in your interactions. Work together to find healthy actions each person can take to foster more trust in the relationship.
If you feel severe jealousy in a relationship, it can be beneficial to seek therapeutic help. The more that you have invested in a partnership, the scarier it can feel to consider losing it. The fear and concern over losing someone or something can be addressed in a healthy manner. Gaining this insight and understanding will improve the dynamics in your current and future relationships.
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- Yoshimura, S. M. (2004). Emotional and behavioral responses to romantic jealousy expressions. Communication Reports, 17(2), 85–101. https://doi.org/10.1080/08934210409389378
- Leahy, R. L., PhD. (2018). The Jealousy Cure: Learn to Trust, Overcome Possessiveness, and Save Your Relationship (1st ed.). New Harbinger Publications.
- Leary M. R. (2015). Emotional responses to interpersonal rejection. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 17(4), 435–441. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2015.17.4/mleary
Karen Doll has been a Licensed Psychologist in the Twin Cities for 20 years, working in organizational consulting. She leverages her education in Clinical Psychology with her leadership assessment expertise in her practice. She is an executive coach focusing on helping people maximize their potential.