Dating 101: Four Ways to Turn Jealousy Into an Asset
Can the green-eyed demon be good for you?
By Dating expert Diana Kirschner, Ph.D.
It all started when you saw him or her looking at the cutie. And it went downhill from there. You may have made some jabbing accusations, started a yelling match, sulked, or generally made your partner pay. You felt justified, righteous. Worried, self-doubting, and sure that your partner was in the wrong. What you really wanted was reassurance and love -- the glorious unconditional kind. Sometimes you got it. Sometimes you didn't. Most all of us have had a few incidents like this. And there are those of us who have had more than a few.
“Jealousy is a form of negative self-talk which research shows can cause anxiety and depression.”
Jealousy is a form of negative self-talk which research shows can cause anxiety and depression. We all know it can lead to painful heartbreak, scads of worry, out-of-control outbursts, and setbacks in a relationship. It can even destroy love. But is it possible that jealousy can ever be a good thing?
Making jealousy work for you
Let's take a look at some ways that moderate spurts of jealousy might actually work in your favor. First of all, let's say your partner spends what seems to be an awfully long time laughing at some cutie's jokes. That worried jealous feeling in your gut can serve to show you that your partner is desirable to you. We have a tendency to devalue anyone who wants to be in a club that would have us as a member. Plus, after being in a relationship for a while, the sparks tend to die down. So seeing someone validate your partner's attractiveness is a good thing. It fans the sparks you still have for your partner. That flash of green in your eyes is a sign that you still care about and want him or her.
Secondly, having a jealous spell can give you tremendous insight into your own insecurities and negative self-talk. "She has such thin thighs...my thighs are fat." "She is so bubbly...and I am boring." "He is smooth, knows what to say...I never seem to make her happy." You can notice the ticker-tape of negative beliefs and worries about yourself when you become jealous. This is very important, because if you notice these ideas you can actually change them.
Third, mild attacks of jealousy can be a good thing because they can motivate you to grow and make yourself better. If you see your partner paying attention to some well-kept, in-shape person, you may think to yourself, "It's back to the gym for me!" If you see your partner flirting with a good-looking gal or guy, you may decide to work on your intimacy moves instead of letting your partner go wanting in that department.
Fourth, jealousy may show you that you need more from your partner: more attention, more compliments, more affection, or more passion. Then you can work on making it happen. If you are feeling loved and grounded in your relationship, you are less likely to become jealous. If you are fresh from a night of passion and "I love you's," another person cannot compete! No more jealousy.
What to do when jealousy happens
Here are four steps to help you turn jealousy into a positive force:
1. When you feel jealous, realize that it is a sign of how much you care for your partner. Make a point of being affectionate and caring. Tell them just how special and great they are. Chances are, they will focus even more attention on you and forget about anyone else.
2. Journal about the negative self-talk that jealousy brings up for you. For every negative statement, write a positive one. For example, if you write, "I have ugly acne," add a sentence like "My eyes are a gorgeous blue." This will actually help you rewire your brain circuitry in a positive way!
3. Notice what qualities make you jealous. Is it the fact that the other person is in great shape? Or that they are sensual? Make a plan to work on yourself so that you develop some of those same qualities.
4. When you are feeling jealous, think about what you might need from your partner. And use positive and straight talk to ask for it. For example, you might say, "Honey, I would love it if you would rub my shoulders and kiss the nape of my neck."
When jealousy goes too far
Of course, some of us have chronic and major struggles with jealousy. If you have the same scenario playing out over and over again where anger and fighting keep erupting, you may have a serious problem with the green-eyed monster. This often occurs if your partner has cheated on you in the past or if you are terribly insecure about your attractiveness to your partner. The painful saga may drag on with one lover after another. It results from picking players or people who are not into you or provoking good partners into unfaithfulness with your constant accusations.
“Serious and chronic jealousy is a type of paranoid self-talk that destroys love.”
Serious and chronic jealousy is a type of paranoid self-talk that destroys love. With this kind of severe jealousy, it is best to go into individual or couples therapy to work out the deeper issues.
The ultimate goal is to not allow jealousy to create negative self-talk and destructive comments and behavior. Instead, use spurts of jealousy to help you develop more positive self-talk, to be a better person, and to create more love in your life.
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