Yes, There’s a Way to Make Jealousy Work for You—Here’s How
Your friend got engaged while you’re still waiting for your boyfriend of three years to propose. Your co-worker got the assignment you wanted. Before you feel guilty about feeling jealous, find out how to make it for you.
Get a reality check
Are you indispensable at work? Or not so much? This is a good opportunity to consider the skills you lack and how you could improve them. “Think about what you can learn from the situation,” says Kristie Overstreet, a licensed professional clinical counselor, certified sex therapist and author of Fix Yourself First: 25 Tips to Stop Ruining Your Relationship. What attributes and strengths do the person you’re jealous of have that you can adopt? This process will help you evaluate your current path and lifestyle, giving you an opportunity for self-improvement. Turn the pain and hurt that comes with feeling jealous into a chance to grow.” So, instead of wallowing in self-pity that your friend got promoted and you didn’t, assess the situation. Do you need to participate in meetings more? Maybe you need to be more organized. Put your feelings aside and analyze what happened to help you determine how you can reach the same milestone. Figure out what steps you need to take to reach that same status.
Put your feelings out there
“Being able to express your feelings and ask for what you want and need is an important part of maintaining a happy, healthy and successful relationship,” says Antonia Hall, MA, a psychologist, relationship expert and author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life. This is true in all of the relationships in our lives.” To help prevent and manage jealousy, talk directly about it. Share your feelings and make clear requests. Tell your boyfriend, “I’m feeling left out that you spend more time with Jessica at work than me. Can we set up a time tonight to hang out?” Requesting specific action can help you feel more secure. And the more connected you are, the less jealous you’ll feel. You may also want to write down your feelings in a journal. It will help you vent your frustrations and you’ll likely feel better after doing so, gaining a clearer perspective on the situation. Find out common behaviors that are subtly sabotaging your relationship.
Avoid excessive demands
Don’t ask your boyfriend to text you constantly from his desk job. Or bug him during his long-awaited guys’ night. If you’re constantly worrying and sending insecure texts or emails, you’ll only look out of control. “You can’t have everything go your way all the time,” says Overstreet. “Don’t become that crazy, needy chick, when all he wants is someone who gets him,” adds Julie Spira, a dating and relationship expert and CEO of Cyber-Dating Expert. What you’re doing will only make you look clingy and unattractive, she says. When nothing reassures you, it may be a sign that the relationship isn’t for you. Find out the signs your partner is a keeper.
Get an aerial view
If you were your friend/boyfriend/colleague and heard about this situation, how would you react? Would you think it sounded normal or would you be freaked out by it? The fact that you’re jealous that your friend runs a faster mile than you does sound ridiculous when you really think about it. “By putting yourself in their shoes, you can manufacture more understanding and compassion; you can also practice the best approach for presenting your thoughts in the most productive way,” says Laurel House, a dating and empowerment coach on E!’s Famously Single. When you put some distance between you and what’s going on, you can see what’s happening more clearly. “Visualize putting the situation in a picture frame and hanging on the wall,” says Gilda Carle, PhD, relationship expert, and author of Don’t Lie on Your Back for a Guy Who Doesn’t Have Yours. “Eliminate yourself from the picture. How would you judge it from afar? If your answer scares you, consider how others might react. Decide what alterations you’re willing to make as a result.”
Ponder ulterior motives
Sometimes we’re jealous about something because we’re really annoyed and bothered about something else. Maybe once you dig down a little, you’ll realize that your bestie ignored your birthday. Or your boyfriend hasn’t been supportive of your career pursuits. “Oftentimes there is a deeper feeling that is driving the surface feeling of jealousy,” says House. Get to the heart and core of the underlying reason why you’re jealous. “The issue we see is never the complete picture of the issue that exists,” says Dr. Carle. She suggests that you list aloud or write down what in your life is making you cringe. “When you finally get to the jealousy issue, after all the others, do you still feel the same way you thought you did? Probably not. Maybe you’re not as jealous as you thought because your jealously has been a projection from other things.” Identify the underlying feeling, then address that directly, says House.
Reign in your imagination
“When a woman is insecure, she sets off negative vibrations and can actually catastrophize her relationship by checking up on her guy,” says Spira. Just because your boyfriend got a text a midnight doesn’t mean it’s from another woman who wants to get him in bed. (More often than not, it’s something like a public service message from your bank or a notice from a colleague about a schedule change for the next day.) Sometimes something starts in our imagination and spirals out of control, causing devastating damage. Think about what you know or have proof of. “Look at the facts as they’re presenting themselves,” says Dr. Carle. Crush any negative suspicions and replace them with real facts. Here are the signs you can trust your partner.
Stop rehashing things in your head. That process will only rob you of the present and get you nowhere. See each day as a fresh start and a chance to grow instead of reliving past experiences. “Don’t let your yesterdays reside in your todays,” says Dr. Carle. “Visualize turning to a new chapter in a book. Once you turn the page, allow yourself to only read forward.” Here’s how to be more mindful every day so you can stop dwelling on the past and fretting about the future.
Appreciate the good stuff
So your boyfriend was flirting with his old childhood sweetheart at the bar last night. You two have a whole history and she’s married now anyway. He’s likely not even conscious that he’s flirting because it may just be the only way he’s ever interacted with her. Instead of seething with jealousy or pondering the what-ifs, focus on how great things are for the two of you. “There’s no faster way to shift away from a negative emotional cycle than with gratitude,” says Hall. She suggests making a list of everything you appreciate about your partner, house, job or whatever it may be. “Really feel the gratitude for their/its presence in your life.” These gratitude tips can help.
Maybe you fear that he’ll cheat on you with his work wife since your dad did that to your mom, or your friend’s husband did that to her. The situation you’re in now likely isn’t the same—your partner has no ties to any of the prior situations you may be bringing into the equation. Don’t let others’ mistakes become a reason for you to become jealous, says Spira. Putting someone in that category isn’t fair to either of you. “Eventually, he’ll become resentful and just may end up in someone else’s arms or decide he’d rather be single,” says Spira. Dr. Carle suggest seeking professional help if you’re having too much trouble living with ghosts from situations past. Find out secrets it’s OK to keep from your spouse.
Put yourself in the driver’s seat
Oftentimes when we’re jealous, part of us thinks we really don’t deserve what we want. Maybe we think we’re unlovable and not worthy enough to get engaged. Perhaps you feel you aren’t deserving of a home in a tony neighborhood. Of course, that isn’t true at all. Aim high for what you believe you deserve, instead of sulking about what you didn’t get,” says Spira. Never believe you’re not deserving of something or someone. “Remember that you’re not helpless in your situation,” says Overstreet. “You’re actually in control of it. When you realize that you’re actually in control, you become empowered to do better.”