Tips with Trish: Jealousy
I’ve been in a great relationship with my girlfriend for eight months. We love each other very much, but I can’t get over being jealous of certain things. Before we met, I knew she had a lot of guy friends and I thought I was okay with that. For some reason, my anxiety has increased when she hangs out with them now. At first, I told her it was no big deal, but it’s starting to really make me angry and jealous. It’s even gotten so bad that it’s caused arguments between us lately. How can I get rid of my jealousy or change it?
Apparently the Jealous Type
Jealousy is a typical part of relationships. A little bit can make your partner feel wanted, but too much can cause serious damage to your relationship. It sounds like you really care about this girl and are aware that your feelings of jealousy have gotten to an unhealthy level. Recognizing this is a good first step.
One thing to understand is that jealousy is a very complex response that’s part emotion, part cognition, and part behavior. Take a look at your feelings and try to figure out what triggers your jealousy. For example, what or who, makes you feel jealous? It sounds like you don’t like when she spends time with male friends. Is it a particular male friend or just anyone? For example, if she spends a lot of time with an ex-boyfriend, that may stem from the fact that they were once romantically involved. If it’s a friend that she says is like a brother to her, this might still be hard but conveys that there are no romantic feelings involved. Having an understanding of what makes you feel jealous might help you figure out how to monitor your reactions when they surface. One situation may mean you need to sit down and talk with her about your worries and ask for some reassurance. Or analyzing the trigger might indicate that you need to trust her more, and possibly keep yourself busy during the time when she is with a particular friend. Reminding yourself that what you have with her is different and special can also help.
You wrote about being angry. Have you tried to reframe your thinking and look at the situation in a new way? When you reframe a situation, no matter how you’re feeling, it sometimes brings down the intensity. When you think about the jealous feeling, what is actually contributing to the feeling in the moment? See if the reaction is rational or not. If your girlfriend is telling you about a project that she is working on with a guy in her class, your first thought may be that they are more than classmates. If you really look at the information that has been provided, you may realize that you have no basis to think that their relationship is anything more. Maybe this has more to do with your past relationships or something else entirely. This doesn’t mean that you can’t feel jealous, but considering the context and pausing for a moment might remind you that group work is just a part of being in college. It may be just a requirement for a class, and doesn’t need to mean anything except working together to get a good grade.
This technique can also be helpful if you take a look at your own self-talk or your inner critic. As mentioned above, sometimes our jealous thoughts have more to do with our own insecurities than with the other person’s behavior. Spend some trying to recall the positive things that you bring to the relationship. There’s a reason why your girlfriend is dating you and not someone else. Give yourself some credit, and focus on the strengths that you bring to the relationship.
Lastly, talking to your girlfriend about your concerns or your insecurities is always a good option. She can’t address the real issues if she doesn’t know what’s behind the jealousy. If she only hears you trying to prevent her from friendships and being possessive about her time, she could become resentful. If you talk to her about your desire to trust her, she may be more sensitive. If you disclose that you feel insecure, she may tend to your needs a little more without giving up other relationships. Remind your girlfriend how much you care about her. Listen carefully and believe what she tells you in response. With communication and trust, hopefully you two will be able to keep jealousy at bay.
If your jealousy continues to get in the way, it may be helpful to talk with a friend or make an appointment with a counselor.