What exactly is the deal with jealousy? Is it a totally normal–even endearing–sign of love, or is it a red flag for more serious issues in a relationship? I feel like this question gets asked a lot, and there’s a lot of confusion around it.
Jealousy can be confusing, I think, because it’s kind of a spectrum thing. Feeling uneasy or anxious if we suspect our partner is eyeing a hot human as we wait for drinks at the bar is normally and generally pretty harmless (unless that’s not kosher with you at all, in which case, say so). We can also drive ourselves totally bonkers if we think about our significant other straying or even considering straying (probably normal). But allowing that worry to take us to a place of becoming adversarial with our partner, of shutting down openness and communication, assuming the worst of our partners–regardless of what’s happening in the relationship–is not healthy or constructive for our relationship. This kind of jealousy shuts down the part of us that needs to be open if we want to be present in our relationships. The solution-oriented part. The loving, genuinely-interested-in-making-it-work part.
There is a difference between this adversarial mode of communication and simply feeling anxious when the idea straying becomes an issue.
Dan Savage sums it up in a no-bullshit way that’s so on-point: A sincere desire to be your girlfriend’s one and only sex partner should not be confused with something as base as jealousy. Jealousy is not trusting your girlfriend when she’s out of your sight; it’s flipping out when other men notice her; it’s making furious and baseless accusations of cheating. Jealousy is controlling/manipulative/abusive behavior masquerading as insecurity. Jealousy is a poison. And you’re not jealous, just monogamous.
So, it’s pretty simple.
Being tolerant of our partner’s insecurity, if it means that we’re required to make our own lives smaller, to see fewer people, be less engaged, won’t help to enrich our relationship or our own lives (surprise, surprise!).
When we really care about someone and value their presence in our lives simply for what it is, we don’t get pissed off if they don’t do exactly what we want them to. We don’t get “unhealthy jealous.”
You can spot unhealthy jealousy because you know you’re not really talking about what you’re talking about… when you talk about it.
These conversations are often fruitless, always frustrating and, generally, endless. It’s been my experience that these kinds of endless, repetitive conversations lead us further and further down a very unsexy path. It’s really unattractive when it becomes obvious that my partner feels they have to manipulate me into doing something instead of just trusting that I will just want to do it, whatever that might look like at any given time.
Point is: If something isn’t working out in a relationship and someone’s first instinct is to control the other person rather than open up a dialogue about it, it’s a deal-breaker the way I see it. I’m not sure you can convince anyone that you do not need to be controlled any more than you can convince someone that they can trust in themselves that they are worthy of staying with. That’s just not on you.
Relationships should be fun. Not filled with worry or feel fragile.