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Healthy vs. Unhealthy Types of Jealousy Ways to Express Jealousy in Relationships

Jealousy is a common human emotion, and almost all of us have experienced it at times in relationships, particularly romantic relationships. Sometimes these feelings of jealousy are fleeting, but other times they can take over, and we may feel the need to express these feelings to our partners.

The question is how to do this healthily and helpfully so that our feelings and concerns are heard, and the lines of communication and trust in the relationship remain intact.

Let’s take a look at what feelings of jealousy mean in romantic relationships, and how to open up a conversation with your partner about these feelings.

It is very common to experience feelings of jealousy in relationships, whether or not your partner is doing anything that might justify these feelings, like flirting with someone else, or cheating in the relationship.

There are theories that jealousy has an evolutionary basis, and that humans evolved to be particularly protective of their romantic relationships to ward off the possibility of infidelity

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Types of Jealousy

Most of us perceive jealousy in a negative light. We think of a jealous person as someone who feels anxious and insecure about their relationship. Or we might think of a possessive, angry partner who is suspicious of every move their significant other makes, whether justified or not.

But while obsessive forms of jealousy can be unhealthy—and at times can turn into emotional abuse or violence

—sometimes jealousy is a healthy emotion to experience in a relationship.

When looked through a different lens, a jealous partner maybe

someone who feels passionately about their relationship, and wants to build a foundation of trust by expressing their needs and boundaries.

Researchers have found jealousy in relationships to be correlated with:

  • Increased love for one’s partner

  • Greater feelings of being “in love

  • More relationship stability

In other words, jealousy can sometimes be a healthy component of relationships, and when shared and expressed positively, may increase the overall happiness and longevity of the relationship.

Addressing Infidelity in Relationships

It’s important to keep in mind that if you believe your partner is being unfaithful—whether are having sexual relations with someone behind your back, having an emotional affair, or breaking an agreed-upon rule for how to conduct themselves in your relationship—you are facing more than a cut-and-dry case of jealousy.

If you have reason to believe that your partner has broken a serious boundary in your relationship, feeling upset and hurt is a normal reaction, and while you may also be experiencing jealousy, addressing this issue is not as straightforward as learning to express your jealousy healthily.

You will also need to focus on how to address your suspicions of infidelity in a clear and self-respecting way. Talking to a trusted friend or therapist beforehand can help you do this; you may also want to consider couples therapy as a way to work through the aftermath of infidelity with your partner.

5 Healthy Ways to Express Jealousy

If you are experiencing feelings of jealousy in your relationship, you don’t have to hold them inside, and it’s not healthy to do so. That being said, coming at your partner with your feelings explosively or aggressively isn’t the best approach either.

The healthiest way to express your feelings of jealousy is, to be honest, direct, and self-affirming, but also sensitive to your partner’s emotions and boundaries.

Start With Some Personal Introspection

Some people are more prone to jealousy than others, especially people who deal with low self-esteem, insecurity, and anxiety. Loneliness and an insecure attachment style can also make you more likely to experience jealousy in a romantic relationship.

Spending some time considering your own personal reactions to your partners’ other relationships, behaviours, or other jealousy-triggering activities, can offer you insights into what is going on, and what your feelings of jealousy might be telling you. Consider discussing your feelings with a therapist or good friend.

Ground Yourself Before the Conversation

It’s best not to start the conversation in a place of heightened, charged emotion, even if that is how your jealousy often feels to you. If possible, take some time to write down what you want to say beforehand, as this can help you collect your thoughts. Practice what you want to say by rehearsing alone or doing a mock conversation with a friend. Do some deep breathing and meditation before the conversation, if those methods work for you.

Share Concerns, Not Accusations

It will be easy for your partner to become defensive if you start listing all the things that they do that make you jealous. Instead, centre on your feelings and concerns, rather than coming from a place of blame or accusations.

Consider using “I” statements, rather than “you” statements. For example:

  • Say, “I feel jealous when I see you do X, and I wanted to talk about that” rather than “You make me

jealous when you do X.”

  • Say, “I want to share some jealous feelings I’ve been having,” rather than, “You're making me so jealous lately!”

Be Patient and Compassionate

Even if you bring up these feelings as sensitively as possible, you should expect that your partner will have their strong feelings in response. After all, you are telling them that something they are doing, or something about their relationship with you, is triggering feelings of jealousy in you. Understandably, they may feel defensive or upset.

You can expect some difficult feelings to surface during this relationship. Just as you are opening up and allowing your feelings to surface, try to give some space to your partner’s feelings as well. Remember that they may need some time to digest this all, and they may not immediately have a rational or compassionate response.


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